Are you an organ donor?

Not this little black duck. One reason is that I really think that to take body parts out of the dead is an act of disrespect to the body. Another is that I think it buys into the whole idea of thinking of the human person in their physical aspect as a machine (and the dead body – or the living but unborn body for that matter – as a junk yard for spare parts). But certainly there is also this: the practice of taking organs from donors who are (in the words of Monty Python) NOT DEAD YET.

There was a conference held on this in Rome a few months back, but now this morning’s edition of The Age reveals that one Dr James Tibballs has raised the ire of the transplant industry by publishing an article in the Journal of Law and Medicine suggesting that there is often undue haste to remove organs before the donor is strictly speaking “dead”.

One of the major issues is, of course, what does “dead” really mean? Is “brain death” just a legal fiction? It was on the matter of “brain death” that the Rome conference reflected. And, of course, organs have to be “alive” (in a sense) to be of any use for transplanting.

What do you think? Are you a donor? Why? If not, why not?

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Are you an organ donor?

  1. Louise

    I’m not any more, for pretty much all the reasons you listed.

  2. Ben

    “…an act of disrespect…”

    Hardly. The doctors remove your organ to give it to someone else to save that persons life, not as an act of disrespect. (Unlike, for instance, the deplorable “Body Worlds” exhibit.) Do you think it’s an act of disrespect for medical students to examine cadavers?

    “NOT DEAD YET”

    This is a valid concern.

  3. Fraser Pearce

    CCC 2296

    Sums it up, really.

  4. Dave

    I am an organ donor because I am willing to accept an organ transplant should I need one. Anyone who is willing to accept a transplant should sign up to be a donor. It’s only fair.

    If you’d like to donate your organs to other registered organ donors, please check out LifeSharers at http://www.lifesharers.org. It’s free. It could save your life.

  5. eulogos

    I received my initial attitude about this as a nurse, in a culture in which the good of organ donations was unquestioned. And so yes, I signed the donor line on my driver’s license.

    I did read the article you mentioned and have been sensitized to the problem of disrespect and the worse problem that we may be taking organs while people are still alive, and that some such people might even recover. As a general moral issue I think this is a great difficulty. I hope adult stem cell research will eventually enable us to grow organs and make this moral dilemma moot.

    As of right now I have decided that I am willing, for myself, to take the risk that the harvesting of organs may take from me a remote chance of recovery. Perhaps what we need is informed consent. People might well consent to this for themselves. I suspect if the person has not stated this upfront, most families will not consent to it when it is put that way. So there will be resistance to saying this up front when trying to obtain permission.

    I think it is wrong to do this to someone else if they did not know what they are consenting to. I don’t see that it is wrong for me to consent to it.

    Susan Peterson

  6. matthias

    I have the same attitude as eulogos;am also a organ donor,after all it is helping others to live .It does come down to informed consent and my family is aware of my wishes-after all i will not be neeeding them.
    As a nurse i resisted the idea of being an organ donor for many years ,but i decided to become one after seeing a young boy at my daughter’s school die of Liver failure

  7. Peter

    While I may be willing to consider a transplant I would never do so if it mean possibly killing someone else to get a new organ. The procedures currently in place are not sufficient to guard against expedience taking precedence over human dignity. As things stand, I will not participate in the process as a donor or recipient until the situation is corrected. I realise this is easy to say as someone who doesn’t need a new organ at present. But there is at least one person I know who could have a donated organ and refuses on these grounds.

  8. Athanasius

    Remember as well, there’s more to this issue than consent. The fact that I consent to being killed doesn’t make it right. If it did then the German cannibal would have got off scot free.

    Killing a live person by taking their organs is wrong whether there is consent or not, because it’s, well, killing a live person. The fact that they might die soon doesn’t make it OK.

    After all, if it’s acceptable to kill someone who is close to death to get their organs, why isn’t it acceptable to kill them to get their hospital bed? In fact, that’s exactly what an increasing number of barbarians are arguing.

  9. Louise

    Do you think it’s an act of disrespect for medical students to examine cadavers?

    Having heard second year med students discuss their cadavers, I’d say “yes.” And I say that as someone who respects science (if not scientists).

  10. Anonymous

    Do you really intend to make an absolute statement based on “having heard second year med students”? At my medical school, the importance of respect for the dead was stressed before we even set foot in the anatomy lab. I spoke at an interfaith memorial/thanksgiving service for the lives and generosity of those who donated their bodies to the anatomy lab. ANY human activity, including worship, can be pursued in an inappropriate manner or for ill motives, but to accuse medical students in general of disrespecting the dead because of your own anecdotal experiences is illogical, insulting, and uncharitable.

    Jon Edwards