When dealing with health, many people would agree that one’s physical condition is strongly influenced by the decisions we make. This is true in many ways. If we choose to partake in risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking, we know there could be negative consequences. We also know that if we eat well-balanced diets and exercise regularly, we will ultimately have a much better chance of living healthy lives. However, what happens when we make all the right choices for ourselves and luck is simply not on our sides? At times like these, the decisions of others could very likely play a crucial role in what turns our lives will take. Unfortunately, most people are so busy caring for themselves in the present that they do not stop and think about what they can do about the future. For that reason, there is very little help for people to receive if they are ever seriously injured. Accidents happen every day, and every day there are more people added to the organ and tissue donor waiting list. What are the chances of actually finding a donor when one is needed? Apparently they are not very good.
According to the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donation Network, a non-profit organization that has provided over 300 educational programs nation-wide, approximately 17 people die each day while waiting for an organ. That translates into one person every 85 minutes. The figures may seem high and impossible for one person to help, but one donor can make all the difference in the world. As stated by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a national agency that has complete information on all donor statistics, there are currently 87,274 people in this country who are on the waiting list. This does not include those who are waiting for more than one organ. Yet even with such a large number of people whose lives are in the hands of the general public, they also state that there are currently only 9,432 people who are signed up to be organ donors. Even worse, Massachusetts has only contributed 355 people to this list. If more people would be willing to donate their organs after death, these numbers would be drastically helped.
The National Organ Transplant Waiting List is growing five times faster than the rate of organs being donated. Unless more people decide that donation is an option for them when they die, it is a certainty that more people will continue to die while they wait for life-saving transplants. The United Network for Organ Sharing states that another 106 people are added to the waiting list every day. That’s one person every 14 minutes. Though the time can vary, most critically ill patients must wait approximately five years to receive the organs they need. Needless to say, the majority of these people do not make it through this waiting period. For that reason, it is imperative for more people to take a stand and sign up for organ donation. Our organs will not help us any when we are dead, but they could save the lives of many other people who still deserve a chance to live.
Some people are under the opinion that if they donate their organs, less will be done to save their lives. This is not true. According to the Living Legacy Foundation, which was approved through legislation in 2003, there is absolutely no conflict between saving lives and using organs for transplantation. A doctor must do whatever is in his power to save each patient, regardless of whether or not the person is an organ donor. In fact, organ donation is only possible after a doctor who is not involved in transplantation declares a person legally brain dead. That means that the person has completely and irreversibly lost all brain function, including the brain stem. Through the use of modern medical technology, a physician can confirm brain death beyond any doubt. This ensures that a person’s decision to donate their organs will not have any effect on their lives.
Becoming an organ donor is an easy process that everybody should consider. In Massachusetts, the Registry of Motor Vehicles has made it easier than ever. You can become an organ donor by filling out an organ donor card and having two witnesses sign it. In order to remind us of the importance of organ donation, the RMV always includes these cards when a new license arrives in the mail. You are also given the option to become a donor anytime you apply for or renew your license. Once you make the decision to become a donor, simply inform your family of your wishes. This is very important, because your family must give their consent to have your organs donated at the time of your death. Even if a card has been filled out, nothing will be done without your family’s consent.
The lack of organ donors in this country is completely unacceptable. People are needlessly dying every day when we all have the option to help them. When it comes to this issue, one person can make an enormous difference. According to the New York Organ Donor Network, the second largest of organ procurement organizations in the United States, one organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and one tissue donor could seriously improve the lives of up to 100 people.
Life is all about choices. We can choose to pretend that nothing bad will ever happen to us, or we can be realistic and know that there is always a chance that things will go badly. Organ donation is a choice that every person must make for himself, but it is important to know that this choice could truly mean the world to others. There are few chances for a person to truly save somebody else’s life. For those who want to make a difference, organ and tissue donation can continue to make the world a better place, even after death.