Friday, April 25, 2014

Are you an organ donor?

Somebody recently pointed out to me that my blog has been noticeably quiet. Mostly, I have found it hard to express myself on the many things I’ve taken an interest in politically in past months as I have found myself in the position we all find ourselves in from time to time, the struggle of not expressing personal political beliefs at the risk of having them clash with the interests of my professional life.

That being said, there is a good chance that the person curious about my lack of blog posts was more concerned about the way my frustrations were coming out in other ways…like texts that are novels, wine induced ranting and passive aggressive Facebook posts. 

So I was happy to finally find something I can comfortably express my opinion about again…organ donation! Ahhhh, I feel so much better already.

The province has announced that there will soon be a public consultation about the prospect of implied consent for organ donation. Essentially it means that you will have to take five minutes to opt out of organ donation, rather than taking five minutes to opt in

Let’s be clear, it does not take away your right to decide what you want to do. It is still your choice.
It will take you longer to read this post, then to opt out if you decide you are not comfortable with the idea of being an organ donor.

Let’s ignore the alarmingly common argument that this will encourage government to take lives early and unnecessarily to get organs. While through the years I have often questioned the leadership in our province, I believe it’s too early to start worrying about the provincial government creating a murderous black market for our organs. That might be a tad dramatic. 

I have also seen the words “slavery”, “morally bankrupt”, “anti-democratic” etc. thrown around in relation to this idea. Again, a tad dramatic. 

While I pray daily to the universe that the bulk of the online commenting community in public forums is not in fact representative of humanity, I was still surprised to see so much hatred, anger and negativity towards this idea. 

What hit me most was the constant use of the words “they” and “taking”.
“They’re not taking my organs.”
“They’re” not “taking” anything of mine without my permission.”
“Who do “they” think “they” are “taking” away my right to choose?”

I found this interesting for various reasons. Who is the “they” that will be taking your organs?
The Liberals? Because I don’t think Stephen McNeil will be hoarding and harvesting organs in his shed. They are not the ones asking for your organs, they are simply encouraging you donate them.
“They”, the people who will actually receive your organs, will be mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family, friends and neighbors or, tragically, someone’s child. That’s the “they” you should be thinking about when you make this decision. 

Because one of these days it could be “you” or “yours” on that waiting list.  
And why are we so concerned with looking at organ donation as “taking”. Why can’t we turn that idea around to “giving”. You are “giving” back life. To someone’s family member. To someone’s friend. To someone’s child. 

In fact, I think this whole province, this whole planet, would do better if we focused less on what is “ours” and what’s being “taken” and focused a little more on what we have to give. Because no matter how little you have, you always have something to give.

I get that talking and thinking about organ donation is not overly fun. I’m not super thrilled with the idea when I think too hard about it myself, any more than I am about deciding whether I want to be cremated or buried. Facing your own mortality sucks. Making decisions for your children’s mortality sucks. Making this decision for a family member last minute because you never planned ahead, sucks. 

Do you know what else sucks? 

Watching someone you love live less of a life, or slowly die because there is no organ available for them. Watching our province pay out billions of dollars in health care to treat patients for the years they sometimes have to wait for an organ. Finding out you could have helped someone, but didn’t because you didn’t opt in

Agreeing to be an organ donor can save more than 8 lives, and it can positively affect dozens more. Not to mention the countless others who are touched when a life is saved.

I am aware that some people don’t donate for religious reasons, or just aren’t comfortable. Let’s reiterate. This does not take away your choice to be or not to be an organ donor. What it does do is eliminate the people who don’t take the time to opt in or are on the fence. 

Because let’s face it, unless we are in a situation where getting an organ affects us directly, it’s not usually top of mind. Let’s hope you’re never in a situation where that is all that is top of mind. 

At the end of the day, whether public consultation leads to implied consent, or if we just keep opting in as we want to, I encourage you to think long and hard about the decision and the positive impact you can have by being a donor. Maybe put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a few moments if you have thus far been lucky enough to not find yourself in need.

Someday you might not be so lucky.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Allison, consider this. If the default is Opt In and I'm FOR donation, then I'm only passively a good person. If the default is Opt Out (as is current), then I need to actively be a good person. I prefer an approach which has me actively doing good things. Such an approach also has the advantage of being unambiguous. The only thing more personal than our body parts is our soul. If we wish to donate body parts, then we should expressly indicate so. Not have a government take them by default. Lazy, disorganized, or otherwise uninformed Muslims (in particular) may not be pleased with a default of Opt In. Organ donation should not have the opportunity for ambiguity about the donor's intent. It's too personal to the donor and too important to the recipient. And to be a recipient of a body part taken ambiguously would be creepy. Can it be taken back if it is proven that the donor was indeed opposed?