Donate Your Organs!

By Amanda King

Voices Editor

@the_amandaking

In any given state in America, a small pinpad will ask you whether or not you want to be an organ donor when you get a driver’s license. And it will continue to ask each time you have to renew your license.

You might not pay it any attention, choosing “yes” or “no” depending on whichever they you feel like that day.

You might already have an automatic response, choosing the “yes” or “no” that you’ve clicked every time before.

You might notice the teeny red heart in the corner of your license if you choose “yes” — or the lack thereof if you choose “no.”

But what you probably don’t do is look at that seemingly insignificant question, and think about how your answer can make all the difference in saving someone’s life.

Because if you tap that tiny circle next to the word “yes,” it means that in the unfortunate event of your death, your organs will be donated to someone in need.

But if you tap that pesky “no,” your organs simply die along with you.

It’s easy to understand why someone might be reluctant to really consider this vital question on a payment terminal when they’re only wanting to get a license and go about the rest of their day.

Who wants to briefly pause their life and consider the morbid idea of their death in the middle of a tag agency? Yes, glazing over this question is completely understandable.

What is not understandable, what is completely unfathomable, is people who intentionally choose “no.”

Can you imagine how selfish someone would have to be to choose not to donate the organs that they won’t need anymore to sick people who can’t survive without them?

Perhaps they so intensely refuse to accept that death is the natural end everyone will meet, perhaps the thought of their own death angers them so much that they withhold out of stubbornness. Some solely cite a religious reasoning.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the chief reasons people cite for not donating are mistrust of the organ allocation system, (unfounded) belief in an official organ black market in the U.S. and fear that their organs will go to someone who is brought on their own illness — or, in their words, a “bad person.”

How do you justify taking your useful organs to the grave because you might not like the person they’re donated to?

Whatever the reason, there is no conceivable defense. None.

Even if you choose to be an organ donor, there is a high chance that you wouldn’t be able to.

According to organdonor.gov, only three in 1,000 deaths occur in a way that donation is possible — which makes it even more critical for people to consent to being organ donors.

But what happens when someone doesn’t have a license, or one can’t be found, and doctors have to get permission from family members to harvest the deceased’s organs?

See here, the situation is a bit more delicate — and entirely more understandable why, in the throes of grief, loved ones might not consent or simply refuse to consider the request.

This is why in countries such as Italy, Spain and Norway, doctors operate under a policy known as “presumed consent.”

This policy, or opt-out, dictates that unless a person has explicitly stated while they were alive that they did not want to donate organs, doctors can harvest them for donation without a relative’s approval. And according to recent data by PBS.org, Spain currently has the highest rate of organ donation — meanwhile, the U.S. ranks about average for opt-in countries.

At present, there are over 113,000 men, women and children on the United Network of Organ Sharing’s waiting list, according to organdonor.gov. Every 10 minutes, another person is added to that list.

And every day, 20 people die waiting for a donation.

What’s so frustratingly sad is that compared to other countries, this number is low — but could be even lower, if not nonexistent, if more people agreed to donate their organs. It’s mind blowing that 95% of adults support organ donation, but barely 54% are really organ donors.

If the U.S. instituted an opt-out policy, or “presumed consent,” these statistics could dramatically shift toward a more positive outlook for those in need of life-saving organs.

If doctors could harvest organs at their own discretion, they wouldn’t need to accept the roadblock caused by a missing red heart on a driver’s license. Organs would go to those who need them, without having to confront the emotional question of asking a mourning family member.

So before you go get your license, or before the next time you renew it, think about this: if you or a loved one were in urgent need of an organ, but didn’t get one in time, how would you feel knowing that a complete stranger’s choice could’ve spelled salvation?

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