By Jason Menard
Some people frown on regifting, but many others of us have, at one time or another, taken something that was given to us and passed it on to someone whom we felt would appreciate the gift more. So if we’re willing to do this for cutlery, paintings, or other less-than-ideal resents, why are we so stingy when it comes to something that matters — something like organ donation?
For the thousands of people currently waiting for an organ transplant, a regift of your organs could be the greatest present they’ll ever receive. It’s potentially the gift of hope, the gift of a future, and the gift of life. Frowning on regifting? Not me. Not when it comes to organ donation.
Since I’ve been old enough to make the decision on my own, I’ve always committed to posthumous organ donation. When I pull out my health card, there’s that black strip along the back reading “donor.” The entire process was so insignificant that I don’t even remember doing it — but the long-term ramifications for someone else could be life-altering.
At least, that’s my hope.
First off, I hope to use my organs for a long, long time. But if something happens to me and I’m shuffled off this mortal coil a little earlier than I expected, then I certainly hope that what’s inside of me can be of use to someone else. And don’t think this is a matter of trying to live on through the lives of others. Simply put, I won’t be needing those organs, so it’s kind of selfish of me to keep them to myself — or reduce them to a pile of ashes once I’m gone.
I can also completely respect those who for cultural or religious reasons decide not to participate in organ donation. That is their choice, their lives, and I respect their right to live it the way they do — just as I hope they respect my choice. I’d like to think that if I’m wrong and I do need my organs wherever death takes me, then whomever is there to greet me will be more than willing to comp me a new set, understanding that I gave them away to help others. Most religions feature a forgiving deity so I’m hoping compassion and caring for others would count.
And if the one who greets me at the afterlife ends up being a stickler for original parts, then I guess I’ll have to live (or die, as the case would be) with that — comforted by the fact that at least I went out on a positive note.
It’s the people who just don’t get around to it until it’s too late that I have a problem with. Sure, nobody likes to dwell upon their own mortality. Nor are too many people fond of being cut open and picked apart like the tubby guy on the Operation board game. But one moment of compassion, one stroke of a pen checking off the right box can make such a difference to those who truly need it.
Assumed consent is a flawed solution for this problem. It leaves too much room for error and too much opportunity for an unintentional disrespecting of someone’s religious beliefs. And while live donation is an option, I’m afraid I’m a little too selfish for such a selfless act. After all, if I give away a kidney and mine fails, I’d be a little miffed. And I don’t know if I’d be able to handle knowing that I sold an organ that my own child or parents may need in the future. If I’m to be condemned for showing preferential treatment for my family, then I guess I’ll have to hang on that crime.
Nor do I like the idea of forcing someone to fill out the form as a prerequisite to obtaining an essential piece of documentation, whether it be a health card or a driver’s license. This, after all, is still a country where people are free to make their own choices at their own leisure.
For me, the decision to donate my organs is a no-brainer (pun fully intended). But I can appreciate that others may have to ruminate over the issue. We all process death differently and we all have different motivations guiding us towards our eventual decision. Unfortunately some people take far too long to make up their mind.
So what’s the solution? Sadly, there is no one perfect answer. Greater education and greater access to organ donation forms are the two ways to bring people around. Why not leave self-addressed stamped forms at various government institutions so people can fill one out on the fly and mail it off! And think of the sheer humour in someone filling out a form allowing for the harvesting of their liver while their in line at the liquor control board!
Why not have fun with the whole thing? Why not put a stack of organ donation forms at a men’s urinal with a message stating, “Enjoying using your kidneys? So would hundreds of others waiting for a transplant. Fill out this form today!” Information doesn’t have to be preachy to be effective!
In the end, the more people know, the more likely they are to make an informed choice. The easier we make it for them to donate, the more likely they will. Human nature is to resist things that are forced upon us — but human nature is also to give!
And hopefully people will get the message sooner, rather than later. Because as welcome as these regifts would be for those awaiting an organ transplant, for many of them time is running out. Whichever way you choose, just choose and let your family know.
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