It is kind of unnerving that the moment you get your driver’s license, you will be asked whether or not you are willing to become an organ donor. It would seem like they are expecting for a fatal accident to happen and only your organs will be saved. If you look at it from a different perspective, however, it is one way that you will be able to do your share in saving lives. Even in death, you will be able to do something heroic. But organ donation is a tricky subject and an equally tricky process that may come with side effects, which is why it remains a hot subject for debate.
Who Can Donate An Organ?
- Almost anyone can become a donor, provided they meet certain criteria.
- Anyone younger than 18 years old must present a parent or guardian consent.
- Anyone with HIV, severe infection, and actively spreading cancer will be excluded, even when the condition is discovered after death or while a donor is still alive.
- A good candidate still has to go through the testing and evaluation process.
If you meet any of the criteria, the organ donation process can proceed if you’re registered in the donor registry in your state or you filled out an organ donor card when you had or renewed your driver’s license. If you are a living donor, you need to contact a transplant center, or you can work directly with a family member or friend before you contact a transplant team.
Does the Donor and Recipient Have to Be An Exact Match?
Ideally, the donor and recipient must have similar blood and tissue type. But the transplant is still possible, even if this is not the case. However, the recipient must be given special treatments to ensure that the body will not reject the new organ.
Is There Any Money Involved?
No. it is illegal for any payment to be made where organ donation is concerned. You will not be paid as a living organ and your family will not incur any cost if you donate after your death. Whatever tests that need to be done with your body will be paid for by the recipient.
As of today there are over 100,000 people on the waiting list for organ transplant. For each day that passes without a donor, one or two of them will die. If one donor is available, up to 8 lives can be saved. This only shows that organ donation has certain advantages. But those who are against it claim that donating an organ comes with a price.
List of Pros of Organ Donation
1. Save lives
As previously mentioned, a single donor has the ability to save multiple lives. Remember that a recipient has to undergo treatments administered on a regular basis until a donor becomes available. Such treatments are usually costly, resulting in tough financial predicaments that a family must go through. So, when a donor comes along and a patient recovers, the rest of the family will also feel relieved mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. Not only is the patient spared from suffering, but also their loved ones. With your organ donation, more than one person will be saved.
2. Second chance at life
There are two sides of every story and organ donation is no exception. The only difference is that the positives will be experienced by both the recipient and donor. Those who received the organ transplant will have a second chance at life, where they will have an opportunity to return to a normal lifestyle, minus the expensive routine treatment. For the living donor, it provides a good feeling and an opportunity to perform a humanitarian act, saving a complete stranger’s life with a portion of his liver, lung, intestine or pancreas. For the surviving relatives of a deceased donor, it gives a sense of goodness despite their loss and the tragedy they have experienced.
3. Offer consolation
The very idea that their loss was not in vain is a great consolation for the surviving family of the deceased. No words can describe the feeling of losing someone, especially at a young age. Family and friends grieve and mourn for a long time, with a few being unable to get past the loss of someone. Organ donation, however, can help them move on knowing that something good came out of the tragedy. The knowledge that a small piece of a loved one lived on also provide a sense of comfort, especially if the recipient lives on to enjoy a long and fruitful life.
4. Provide opportunities for medical research
If the idea of being cut open with your organs distributed to different strangers does not sit well with you, you can always donate your entire body to help medical students become great doctors. Medical schools are always in need of cadavers that students can work on during their training period. Donating your body to the medical community is one gift that will continue to keep giving long after your body has been used, because the knowledge that the students gain will be carried on to their medical practice.
Also, if you’re afflicted with a rare disease and you donate your organs or body to medical doctors or surgeons, you will provide a source of research that will help find a cure or treatment for the next patient. Even after your death, you will be able to save many lives if and when a cure is discovered.
List of Cons of Organ Donation
1. Prolonged suffering of the family of a donor
Most of the time, the family of the deceased donors are not informed that the body will be kept on life support until the organ will be harvested. So the donor’s body remains warm and breathing until it is taken off life support. In most cases, this can be traumatizing for the surviving family. Also, if there is still some form of brain activity, a donor will continue to be on life support. The hope lingers for the family, while it gradually wanes for the recipient.
Some families also have a problem as to who will receive the organ, as some of them may have something against a particular religion, gender or race. Unfortunately, donated organs to the United Network for Organ Sharing are distributed without preferential treatment, which can be devastating for the surviving family members.
2. Prolonged suffering for the recipient
Waiting for a donor is a stressful experience, especially when the time that separates between waiting and surviving is very slim. The very thought that a recipient will die before any donor turns up, often exacerbates a patient’s condition. The reality, however, is that waiting for a heart takes an average 113 days, while waiting for a kidney takes an average 1,219 days.
3. Possible development of diabetes
Study showed that 1 out of 10 people who received organ transplant can develop diabetes. This is very risky for the recipient as this increases the possibility of organ rejection, development of dangerous infections, and even death. Preventing this, however, may be difficult since some of the drugs used to suppress the immune system and keep the body from rejecting the new organ can cause diabetes or worsen the condition if it already exists.
4. Possible transplant rejection
Some recipients lived with the newly transplanted organs for weeks or months before the body starts to reject it. There are also cases when rejection happens a few minutes right after transplant. This only shows that organ donation is no short or long-term guarantee. Lucky are the few who lives without experiencing hyperacute rejection, acute rejection, or chronic rejection.
5. Comes with possible surgery complications
Organ transplant surgeries are not without their share of risks. Living organ donations, for instance, may lead to potential side effects, blood clots, hemorrhaging or damage to tissues and organs surrounding the area being operated. Some who received deceased organ donations also reported lifelong health problems and complications that resulted in more financial problems.
There is also a chance that the newly transplanted organs will not function at all. Transplanted kidneys, for instance, may not work right away, and a recipient has to be placed on dialysis while waiting for the kidney to start working. Imagine what will happen to the patient if the body rejects a kidney or it causes an infection?
A surgery can also leave visible lasting scars that a patient has to live with. For some, the scars don’t matter as long as the transplant is a success.
6. Added costs incurred
While organ donation is free, pre and post-surgery hospitalizations are not. If the body takes time to accept the new organ, the recipient has to stay on in the hospital for safety measures, which will cause the costs to increase. Add to this the time lost from work, cost of medicine and treatment, and post-care expenses, the overall amount will quickly add up. What if the surgery keeps the recipient from going back to work? Whatever income he might have earned after the operation would go down the drain.
These are just a few of the pros and cons of organ donation. So before you sign up to be an organ donor for any reason, know and understand your options first.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.