Ethics. We all have them. They govern our behaviour and ultimately decide how we choose to live our lives. Our ethics can be the same, and they can differ. There are some topics that highlight our ethics, organ donation is one of them.
In England, the law around organ donation changed in May of this year. We have now adopted an ‘opt out’ approach, whereby if you are 18 or over and aren’t a member of one of the ‘excluded groups’ you are an organ donor unless you register and state otherwise.
I am a member of one of the ‘excluded groups’, due to my age I’m not registered as an organ donor automatically and have to register myself as one or wait until I’m 18. I registered quite some time ago to be an organ donor, it was a pretty easy choice for me. However, I understand why it’s a hot topic for debate.
From my ‘pro organ donation’ point of view, my death could potentially save the lives of nine other people, which is something amazing and almost gives my death a sense of purpose. As well as this, I feel it’s important that as many people are organ donors as possible, only 1% of people who die are in circumstances that allow them to donate their organs and so the more people who are registered, the more chance we have of saving the lives of those waiting on transplant lists. I could go on and on about the advantages of organ donation, but the main reason I researched this topic, is to gain some more perspective on why some people ‘opt-out’.
So, why disagree to donate? Lots of people fear that if their doctor was to discover that they’re an organ donor, they would be neglected and not given the best treatment in the hope that they die and their organs can be harvested. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but it’s an interesting point of view. Other ideas, are that people are psychologically uncomfortable discussing death and thinking about their organs being removed from their dead body – fair enough I suppose. Some feel that those in need of organs may be sick as a result of their poor lifestyle choices, and so they don’t want their organs to go to someone who has no respect for their body.
There is also some confusion around death itself. Medics believe that when a person has suffered irreversible brain damage that results in them not being able to respire independently, they are legally confirmed as being dead. However, because the rest of their organs still function, family members often argue the doctors’ decisions and state that they don’t know the person is dead, so their organs shouldn’t be removed and they should remain on life support. This is a situation that is understandably difficult for the family of patients in particular, letting go is hard.
I’m sure there are plenty more counter-arguments for organ donation but I can’t write forever. What matters is that, although I am still for organ donation, I can see both sides of the debate.