Mandatory organ donations would save thousands of lives

Saturday, December 24, 2005

By Leah Warren

Organ donation is a vital issue to me, because I have seen first-hand how important organ donors are. My cousin, who is now 21, healthy and full of life, needed an urgent kidney donation when she was a small child.

Had she not had anyone out there who agreed to donate his organs after he was deceased, she might not have survived her desperate need for a kidney transplant. Because some giving person knew his organs could help other people, he donated them. He saved her life.

People unaware of donating organs must be informed, and organ donation should become mandatory upon one's death.

Not enough organ donations is killing patients daily. Today in America, 89,000 patients are waiting for an organ transplant, and 4,000 new patients are joining the wait each month, according to the Donate Life Web site.

Those who can afford to wait are the lucky ones, because each day an average of 74 people need a vital organ transplant in order to live. Seventeen of those 74 will die because the organs they need to survive aren't available and because no one agreed to donate his organs upon death.

The No. 1 argument proposed by people against mandatory organ donation is that requiring people to give up their organs after death violates a person's freedom of choice. However, I believe the true reason for not choosing to donate is because people have misconceptions about the donation process.

Informing these people of the good they could be doing and informing them about the facts of organ donation would put them at ease.

Many people believe the operation of retrieving organs from a body will leave it looking disfigured. However, this is a myth. According to the Donate Life Web site, donation will not disfigure the body in any way, and an open casket is still possible at one's funeral.

Another false fact is that organ donation costs the donor's family. Costs for donating a kidney are covered by the National Kidney Foundation.

And perhaps the biggest myth of all: "Doctors will not try to save my life if they know I want to be a donor." The truth is the medical staff trying to save a life is completely separate from the transplant team, and they have no way of knowing if a person is willing to be an organ donor.

Organ donation isn't as complicated or alarming as people seem to think.

Mandatory donation should be required for all physical conditions, races and ages.

Although physical condition does play a fact in whether one's organ will be used, physicians can make the final decision. All organs donated are considered for transplant, and one's physical state might or might not affect an organ's performance. A trained physician can decide properly.

All races should be required to donate because, according to the Donate Life Web site, "transplant patients are more likely to find matches among donors of their same race." Organs are matched based on blood and tissue types. Having all races would allow the proper organs to be available to all patients.

Age does not matter in organ donation. The National Kidney Foundation reports that nearly 10 percent of patients waiting for an organ are under the age of 18 and could be better suited to a younger donor's organs.

All individuals are considered to be organ donors and potential lifesavers and, therefore, should be required to be organ donors.

Organ donation saves thousands of lives, which is the main reason organ donation should be mandatory. According to the National Kidney Foundation, every donor could save or help as many as 50 people. Also, according to the foundation, of the estimated 12,000 people who die each year and physically qualify to donate, not even half become organ donors. If all were required to donate their organs upon death, 650,000 people could benefit from their organs. Those donors would offer every organ transplant patient a chance to save his or her life.

Leaving donors unharmed, saving thousands of lives, having several types of organs available -- all are reasons why organ donation should be mandatory.

People need to be required to donate organs in this organ-needing world.

Although many people are scared to donate organs, organ donation would save thousands of lives. Organ donation is a present: The donor gives his organs, and the patient receives them.

Leah Warren is a student at Jackson High School.

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