Friday, February 15, 2008

Off Topic: Organ Donation

I've been seeing the ads on television, and maybe even in the newspaper, about the new online registries to sign up to be an organ donor.

I've had that D on my driver's license for years, but apparently that isn't considered informed consent and your next-of-kin is still faced with the hard decision of what to do at a time when they're in a great deal of emotional pain.

When my best friend died suddenly (and WAY too young) while on a business trip to Canada in 2005, her family honored her wishes and had her organs donated. At her memorial service, I heard stories about how the people at the hospital were so blown away that her family not only donated her organs, but donated them in Canada to Canadians even though they were Americans. (I don't even know if taking them across the border to the U.S. was even an option.) I think that took a special kind of grace to make that kind of decision while in intense shock since there hadn't been any hints that she had any problems with her heart or other serious illness.

I've made a point of making sure that Scott, my husband, knows my wishes, and I think I've told other family members too. But it wasn't until I got my daily post from The Happiness Project that I sat down and did it right away.

And if you haven't signed up on the registry and want to be a donor (you can limit what organs/tissues/etc you donate), please do so right away. G-d forbid that you or your loved ones will be in a position to donate anytime soon, but there's such a shortage of organs available. And wouldn't you want your loved one who needed a transplant to have a better chance of receiving one before it's too late?

If you're in Oregon or Washington state, go here. If you live elsewhere in the country, find your state's registry here.

I have to admit I hesitated about whether I was willing to donate skin, although Jews don't have open caskets anyway so it's not like anyone is likely to see me. I just find the concept a little squicky. But then I thought about the world of difference it could make for a burn victim, and I unchecked the box that would have refused it. For what it's worth, the FAQ says that even if you do donate your skin, it's still possible to have an open casket. (This is getting morbid, but I guess they leave it on your head and probably hands too so the parts people would see still look normal.)

State laws differ on whether family members can overrule your decision to donate once you're on the registry, but at least it's a clear way to indicate your preference down to the detail of exactly which parts you're willing to donate.

If you're not sure how you feel, at least go to the site and read the FAQ. If you still have questions, there are numbers for people you can call to discuss it. (At least on the NW page. I assume on other state/region pages as well.)


Dave said...

Over half of the 98,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

Aviva said...

That's an interesting idea, but I don't know that it's legal. My limited understanding of how organ donation works is that when you agree to donate a family member's organs, you have no say in who receives the organs. That decision is made by the medical professionals who decide who needs the organs the worst.

Also I question how I could commit my minor child to agree to donate her organs as an adult. Certainly, G-d forbid something happen to her during her childhood, my husband and I would make that decision. (Boy do I hope I never have to make that decision!!!!!) But once she's an adult, she will be able to make a choice about whether she wants to sign up to be an organ donor or not. My signing her up on your list would not guarantee that when she makes a living will or whatever when she's 21 or so, that she won't decide she wants to be buried intact. And as her next-of-kin, I would honor a choice she made as an adult no matter how much I disagreed with it.