Ticking the organ donor box on your license may seem insignificant but for someone else your choice may mean the possibility of blood flowing through their veins, moments with their family or instead an untimely death. You’re not signing your life away yet, that X marking the spot is no binding tie, without family consent that choice is defunct.
Why? Because no one talks about their choice, a family uninformed is left to make that choice at a time overflowing with heartache. It’s taboo to bring it up over dinner, macabre even. We joke of playing Coldplay songs at funerals and casket preferences but the divvying up of body parts is where the light banter stops.
Even with the greatest of intentions without family consent, ideal conditions for organ survival your wishes may not be met. In the current opt-in system where each individual has the choice to elect to be an organ donor, this is no guarantee. Families at the time of death can veto organ transplant and override a person’s choice, overwhelming grief a major factor.
“My body is just a husk. You can prop it up in the town centre and do a stage show with it if you want, I wouldn’t care; I’d rather put my organs to good use though.”
It is only in certain situations that organs can be used for patients on the waitlist, patients who pass away brain dead or without any signs of trauma present; to give the recipient the best chance of life. This further lowers the eligible donors levels far lower than the patient need.
Approximately 1,600 people are on transplant waiting lists at any one time in Australia alone, waiting desperately for a donation, a considerable amount pass away waiting.
A cardiac surgeon who spends his life “harvesting organs” took to Reddit anonymously to plea for change, answering a host of questions. Most notably he touched upon the stigma of organ donation, “The stigma I’ve met is that some people feel it’s either disrespectful, or downright wrong to remove a person’s organs after they’ve passed away. That you are somehow taking a part of that person, and that they’re thus “incomplete”.
The doctor added “I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the dead, not at all, but once you’re gone, you’re gone. For me, once I’m gone, my body is just a husk. You can prop it up in the town centre and do a stage show with it if you want, I wouldn’t care; I’d rather put my organs to good use though.”
In 2012 Will Chapman was dying, his disease terminal without a heart and lung transplant, he took to viral video as a plea for life.
Jumping behind his campaign Will became the face of a movement, Don’t Bury Me, begging families to have the conversation and give the gift of life. Watch the advert for yourself here
Instead of a heart laid to rest, that heart can pump another’s life, a lung offered on can breath new life into a sick soul or a kidney passed on can unplug an existence attached to dialysis.
Later that year Will against all odds received both transplants and today at 24 years old continues to fight for national reform in tribute to his donor family. Will’s mother Julie graciously thanked the donor family “Whoever Will’s donor family is, I hope you find some consolation your son’s heart beats strong in Will’s chest, his lungs give Will life sustaining breath. You saved us from a lifetime of despair. You saved our son. Thank you.”
Just 18 people per million across the population donated in Australia in 2015, with rates that low only 435 people on a list that extends 1600 people receive good news, otherwise they remain in the waiting room a little longer.
Myths surround organ donation, untruths circulated in whisper because of it’s lack of dinner table appeal. There are enough organ donations, age restrictions, only the healthiest organs are used and an assumption that once you’ve ticked the box you’re a guaranteed organ donor. The reality is why only 435 transplants took place last year, organ donation is misunderstood. Age is no barrier, 7/10 Australians are in good enough health to donate and unless you talk about organ donation with your loved one’s there is no guarantee your wishes will be upheld.
All this talk of organs and stats can remove us from the situation, a living being has passed, a family mourns and discussing body parts for wholesale distribution can be awfully upsetting. Instead of a heart laid to rest, that heart can pump another’s life, a lung offered on can breath new life into a sick soul or a kidney passed on can unplug an existence attached to dialysis.
Image source: Huffington Post