By Ania Wojas
The following article was printed in the February 2020 edition of The Campus.
When people think of February, they may think of valentines and hearts (or lack thereof). It’s funny, then, that people forget all about National Organ Donor Day, which conveniently also falls on that same heart-filled day, February 14th. So, whether or not you have someone to make your heart happy this Valentine’s Day, you do have a heart … and a pancreas, and probably a pair of lungs, a small bowel, some kidneys, and maybe even a liver. Not to mention other tissues like eyes, bones, skin, heart valves, tendons, and veins. Rejoice! Keep them, enjoy them, and find out how they may help save lives once they are no longer of use to you.
Organ transplantation typically occurs after death. This concept, though foreign to us in our youth, is an inevitable end for us all. Perhaps reading this article is not the first time you have heard of organ donation; after all, if you have ever received a permit, driver license, or non-driver ID card from the DMV, then you’ve already encountered the question asking you to declare your status as an organ donor. But hey, you’re more than a checkbox on a form, so let’s dive a little deeper, shall we?
According to the American Transplant Association, approximately 114,000 people in the US are awaiting an organ transplant; meanwhile, the waiting list steadily grows every ten minutes, and every passing day that doesn’t bring the promise of a donor means the death for twenty more on that list. Both living and deceased donors can contribute to patients on this list, though live donors give partial organs. Although such donors are typically related to the acceptor, losing part of your body can, understandably, be a harrowing thing to imagine. So, the focus of this article is primarily dead organ donors.
The dead-donor rule (DDR) prohibits organ removal if it would spell the onset of death, meaning that a donor must be proclaimed dead before transplant. In cases where patients are pronounced brain dead or otherwise unable to return to a conscious state of being, life sustaining treatment is removed prior to the procedure and the family is given a chance to say their goodbyes. One common misconception regarding organ donation is that physicians will not put as much effort into saving them, so as to harvest their organs quicker. This idea, however, is erroneous as a physician’s foremost priority is always to serve the patient, as attested to by the Hippocratic oath which is typically taken upon entry into medical school. Furthermore, if the patient has not elected to be an organ donor prior to death, this status is only discussed or disclosed to the family postmortem. The medical providers involved in the treatment of the patient are usually different from the ones responsible for carrying out the transplant.
Religious and cultural beliefs and traditions such as death and burial ceremonies are often thought to have implications on the status of organ donation and transplant. However, this is not always the case. In fact, most major religions are not opposed to organ and tissue donation as it is viewed to be an altruistic act of charity and compassion. Secondly, a closed-casket funeral is not required for organ donors as donors are treated with enormous respect and reverence by procurement teams.
Hopefully, this article has convinced you that February 14th is, in truth, about so much more than heart-shaped candies and roses. Even if you don’t change your relationship status this Valentine’s Day, consider changing your organ donor status this National Organ Donor Day. Not ready to take that leap yet? Consider just taking a first step and donating blood or plasma. There are so many people whose lives you could be the one to save, National Organ Donor Day is devoted to spreading awareness about that fact. Visit https://donatelife.ny.gov/
or www.organdonor.gov for more information on how you can become an organ donor today!