Organ donation; a personal choice

By Carol Dwyer
September 15, 2010

The decision to declare on a driver’s license an organ donor status is one of personal choice. However, According to The New American, the people of New York may become organ donors by default of government choice. In the event that such a change comes to Pennsylvanians, there are some pros and cons to think about.

One obvious pro would be the way in which donated organs save the lives of those on long waiting lists.  Having a family member who had to be on dialysis for  diabetes, it was found out to be a painful process.  For such a situation, receiving a new kidney would mean relief for a patient and his or her family.

Also, people who suffer from some health problems may doubt whether or not their organs can be donated upon death. The California Transplant Donor Network provides answers for those with a history of cancer, lupus, diabetes and hepatitis. If a state government makes people organ donors by default, patients would need to know about these changes.

That leads right into the first of two cons regarding what may seem to be government-decided organ donor status for citizens.  The public in general needs to know if and when a state government decides that its citizens will suddenly be organ donors.  If someone started out not being an organ donor and did not change that, how does that person know their status changed?

Although not exactly government decided, people may see it in those terms as a result of not being aware of changes in laws.  The person who is suddenly marked as an organ donor may not appreciate how the law changes, seemingly on the sly.  After all, what is wrong with how the system is now that at least one state government may change it?

Mary Jo Rose, RN, thinks that if this was to be made a law, people should be made aware. As a nurse at Cabrini’s Health Services, Rose added that there should be an awareness campaign.

That would definitely be helpful for this particular issue, in which something could change without people realizing it.

One way to tell people about changes in a medical law seems to be through the hospital systems.  Such as the case when someone gets a prescription refilled and finds out a law changed about that drug.

“If it’s going to be implemented,” Rose said, “I think that hospitals are going to have to remind people what the law is when admitted.”

Hospitals could also offer seminars to people in the surrounding areas, similar to health-related seminars advertised on local television.  The seminars could be held at various times so that multiple groups of people could learn about medical laws that affect them.  There could even be video made available for those who can and wish to hear the information online.

The information could also go out by way of public service announcements and social networking sites that see ever-growing use.  However the information spreads, the most important thing is to make the general public know about such a change taking place. That way, if someone does not wish to be an organ donor, he or she will know to unmark it.

Another con regarding this issue may be in the form of a person’s own rights as a citizen.  Something heard often in the news is centered on the rights that people have and concerns of losing them.

“There’s no way I can see that going through,” McGeehan said.  “You can’t make people sign up for it.”

A peri-operative nurse from Bethel Township, McGeehan said that her driver’s license is marked with the organ donor sticker.  McGeehan also discussed the organ donor issue in terms of medical conditions that people may have.

“I have Lasik’s in my eyes and an implant in my left eye, so they [my family] couldn’t take it,” McGeehan said.

McGeehan added that if everybody did donate organs, it would help people in accidents or needing transplants.

However, McGeehan’s main opinion about donating organs seemed to be in regards to an individual’s rights.  In other words, if everybody donated organs, that would be great as long as it is by choice and not the government.

Some students on campus also gave their opinions about changes regarding whether or not people should be organ donors by default.

“The government is intruding too much basically,” Maryellen Anastasio, senior communication major, said.  “There is no point in changing how it is being done now.”

Anastasio feels that the government was trying to find a loophole to find more donors.

“I think people should have an option,” Anne Brokenborough, senior education major, said. “It’s all politics.”

Greg Zabel, junior history and secondary education major, said he thought it would good thing in changing the organ donor status.

The students’ responses led to a discussion about the government’s overall handling of the health care issue.  The idea of universal health care was brought up and this seemed to parallel the idea of enrolling everyone as organ donors.  It comes down to whether or not universal healthcare would work for every individual’s situation.  Similarly, would everyone really want to be an organ donor once they realized their status changed?

Whether or not becoming an organ donor remains a personal choice in Pennsylvania, people who need organs to stay alive will benefit.  Maybe the idea of making citizens organ donors by default is a way to address a shortage of available organs.  However, if a great number of people do not wish to stay on as organ donors, how does that address a shortage?

People want to have their choices and feel that they can decide things for themselves in the end. It is the same situation with many other personal decisions that people face as they go through life.

It is the choice of the citizen whether not he or she registers to vote and which party to vote for. Therefore, it does not seem to make sense that the government could decide on organ donor status for the citizens.  It is one of those personal things that the government does not need to get involved with.

There does not seem to be anything wrong with the current system for signing up to be an organ donor.  However, if changed, people’s organ donor status could change without their knowledge and that is why it seems an unnecessary idea.

Finally, the change in default organ donor status could be another item that comes at the tax payer’s expense.  If that is the case, it would definitely not be a good thing, just to switch the default of everyone’s organ donor status.

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Carol Dwyer

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