Organ donation has the potential to not just save lives for the recipients, but to ease a lot of pain for families, friends and the extended community.
Aside from individual pain and the attendant heartbreaking anxiety of families, the cost of a protracted illness to the broader community and the loss of a productive member of society reaches far and wide. This is not the time to be mercenary, but prolonged medical treatment, hospital stays and the loss of, say a household primary income has an impact on us all, even if we are not directly affected.
I accept there may be philosophical reasons against joining the Organ Donor program. If you hold beliefs that, for whatever reason precludes that option for you, should you discourage others from participating?
Consider too that the death of a loved one, close relative or a friend may have been in circumstances where the last thing you would want to even contemplate would be the question of organ donation. For that reason alone, if you are contemplating putting your name on the Organ Donor Register you simply must discuss that with your partner, family, carer etc. Obviously anyone who forms part of your advanced care planning and your legal enduring powers of attorney for medical treatment and other affairs must be informed, including your legal representatives. See also Jan’s post on the subject of wills, powers of attorney etc.
The question needs to be thought through carefully, discussed with family, spiritual advisors and possibly friends, to ensure everyone understands your wishes. Jan and I wrestled with the question “yes or no” for some time and once we determined to include “do not revive” clauses in our Medical Powers of Attorney and Advance Care Directives it became clear that we would be primary candidates for the Australian Organ Donor Register.
An initial worry was that, for example, one of us was in an accident and sustained extensive injuries from which we could possibly recover even if having a severely diminished quality of life. If at the same time there was someone on a waiting list, with whom we would be donor-compatible, was there a possibility that we may be “let go” to fulfil that other need? That would imply an unhealthy disposition towards the ethics of some in the medical profession and indeed constitute malpractice; perhaps paranoid, but those thoughts happened.
Clearly we moved on, we have discussed organ and tissue donation with our respective families and there are directives in place and most importantly, we have registered. On reflection, there is probably part of me that wants to live beyond the grave, but my main hope is that the organs I have are worthy of donating when the time comes and that somewhere the continuation of a productive life has been secured, with the good will and understanding of my loved ones.
Originally, it was my intention to include some personal case studies in this post, they are not hard to find. The stories from those whose close family member, often a child, has been the donor, are of varied but deeply emotional experiences that most of us simply do not want to contemplate being in a position to recount. From the recipients, sheer joy at an otherwise denied second chance to live! In all cases both the donor and recipient sides are stories of inspiration and courage. Gratitude is on both sides of the fence. Often for the donor’s family, the feeling that although someone close has physically left, part of them actually lives on, hosted by one of the most grateful people in the world.
So, no case studies here, instead I have included a couple of links below, to story sites or you can search “organ donor stories Australia” for yourself.
Physical life is a fragile and ephemeral thing, I am not a religious person, so as the years go by there is contemplation of finality for me.
Irrespective of belief, wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to make a contribution to shortening the list of those who await organ or tissue transplants and to provide life where there may be otherwise little hope?
Are you on the Register? Have you discussed the prospect with your family? Has someone you know benefited from a donation?