Organ Donation Essay

This essay has a total of 4584 words and 21 pages.

Organ Donation




Harry Wilson is one lucky man; even Harry's doctors cannot believe how lucky he is. You
see, Harry, at age 54, was dying. He had to have both of his kidneys removed, they were
failing and he had been on an organ donation list for the past two years without success.
Harry's children were tested for compatibility but without success. Harry's own brothers
and sisters were tested for compatibility but still no success. Now you may ask, how in
the world could anyone consider Harry Wilson lucky? Well Harry Wilson got married about
three years ago to Mary Smith. It was a second marriage for both and they obviously loved
each other very much. But that was only a small part of Harry's luck. The doctors
decided to test Mary for compatibility and it was a complete match. In fact, the doctors
could not believe that two people, who were related by marriage only, could have such a
perfect blood and tissue match. Consequently, the surgery was scheduled. Harry's two
kidneys were removed and replaced by one of Mary's kidneys. Now they both have one kidney
apiece and both are doing very well living together in Cadillac, Michigan. After the
surgery, the doctors told Harry that he would never have received an organ donation in
time. Yes, Harry Wilson is one very lucky guy. Organ failing deaths can decrease if more
organ donations are made.

Modern medicine has altered the definition of death and made the barrier between life and
death less clear. It used to be that one was pronounced dead when their heart stopped
beating and they had stopped breathing. Death today is defined not by heart beats and
respiration but rather by one's brain waves. Doctors measure these brain waves with
machines known as EEG machines. When an EEG shows a flat line, this means that the
patient's brain is dead. Brain death is when the brain has stopped maintaining controls
of all other bodily functions. Advances in technology have now made it possible to
maintain respiration and circulation artificially in persons who are considered dead so
that their organs can be removed and used to save someone else's life (Landau). This
technology is called artificial life support systems. Life support systems are used on
patients with brain function when the physician is actively treating the patient. They
are also used or continue to be used for organ donation when the patient has become brain
dead. Society struggles with the understanding that when someone is brain dead and being
maintained on life support systems that allow their heart's to beat and their breathing to
continue, that patient is never coming back. The conflict in the definition of death
arises when the opportunity of organ donation is presented.

Throughout the nation, there are not enough transplantable organs to go around.
Statistics show that the majority of people in the United States are willing to donate
their organs upon death, and even more indicated their willingness to donate organs of a
loved one if they know that was their wish. More than half of the eligible donors refuse
to donate their recently decreased family member's organs because they don't know how the
decreased felt about organ donation (MacPherson). In June of 1998 there were fifty-nine
thousand nine hundred fifty-four patients across the nation waiting for an organ
transplant and last year nineteen thousand nine hundred sixteen patients actually received
transplants (Frei). Unfortunately less than one-fifth of the American people actually
sign donor cards (Fentiman). Every 18 minutes another person is added to the waiting
list. (Frei). In the four days a high school student is given to research organ donation
forty people died waiting for organs, but why?

Many myths are associated with organ donation. Myths on organ donations are created due
to lack of knowledge. More and more evidence suggests that Americans are either unaware
of the organ shortage or are confused about the donating process (Perry). One myth is
that there are many people in the nation pledging their organs upon their death.
Unfortunately the truth of the matter is there are not enough organs donated annually to
supply the medical demand. "Some five thousand Americans need new livers. Only half will
get them this year; close to ten percent will die before a match is found. Another three
thousand three hundred people are waiting for a heart. One third will get one; thirteen
percent are more likely to die before that happens. The rest continue to wait" (Adato).
Another false belief is the idea that if one has a donor card then all resources to save
them will not be used. This myth suggests that donors will be taken off life-support in
order to reap their organs. In reality, the doctors giving medical treatment are unaware
whether one has a donor card or not. Medical care is unaffected by a patients willingness
to donate posthumously. It is common practice throughout the nation that no request is
made to the family to consider organ donation until after the doctor has signed a death
certificate; unlike what is shown in tv dramas. Possible donors have already been
declared legally brain dead because their brains have stopped functioning. Individuals of
sudden, traumatic deaths by gunshot, car accident, or stroke are the most probable organ
donors. Families traumatized by the news may believe they are being asked to decide about
terminating life support when they are really being asked if they want to organs to be
retrieved or the machines to be discontinued. It is also believed that celebrities get
preferential treatment. In fact, time is the number one factor, so matches are made in
the local area first. Mickey Mantle got his liver quickly because he was classified the
most critically needy patient in the Dallas area (Adato). Others believe that minority
candidates wait longer because of racial bias in the system. Only medical facts are taken
into consideration not ethnic backgrounds. It is true in many transplants that necessary
matching antigens have a higher occurance in people of similar race. Black are one of the
lowest groups to give to organ donation. All other organs can be shared between people of
different race, ethnicity or gender (Adato). The largest misconception is that
religion is a prohibiting factor in organ sharing. Only Orthodox Judaism opposes organ
donation and now viewpoints are changing within that community (Adato). Altrusim is
considered by Roman Catholics to be an act of charity or a matter of individual
conscience. Judiasm teaches that saving a human life takes precedence over maintaining
the sanctity of the human body. Baptists approve organ transplant when the
transplantation offers real medical hope for the recipient (Perry). Polls show that the
majority of people of all religions support the idea of donation. Myths created by
misguided beliefs have a direct impact on organ availability. During the course of the
three-day time period given to create the note cards including those on inaccurate myths
and availability of organs, thirty more people in the United States have died.

Organ availability is a significant factor in organ transplants. Organs are available for
transplant only after a person has been declared brain dead. Determining brain death is
based on strictly medical and legal guidelines. First, the brain must have stopped
functioning, indicated by flat brain waves on an EEG test. In addition, artificial means
must be necessary to maintain heartbeat and breathing. Only at the point where all bodily
functions would cease if artificial life-support systems were removed, does organ donation
become an option. For these transplants to be successful, however, time is a critical
factor. Organs must be immediately transferred to the hospitals, or the odds of
successful transplantation dwindle. The window of opportunity varies for different
organs: the kidneys are viable for forty-eight to seventy-two hours, the heart and lungs
for only four to six hours after recovery (Perry). Because this window of opportunity
is so slim and the availability of organs drops with time, knowing the steps of organ
donation becomes critical.

When an individual has come to the decision that he/she wants to donate their organs there
are a few simple, but necessary steps to do so. First sign a donor card; they are
available at almost all hospitals or can be obtained from local organ procurement
agencies. The second thing to do is to discuss the decision with one's family. Time and
time again many would be donors fail to share their decision with immediate family
members. Then as a result, without knowing their intent, many family members decide
against donation in time of trauma. Statistics show that most family members will respect
a loved one's wishes and grant permission to donate organs if prior conversation on the
topic has taken place. For the donor card to mean anything six standards must be met: an
absence of coercion and undue influence must exist; clients must be capable of providing
consent; clients must consent to specific procedures; the forms of consent must be valid;
clients must have the right to refuse or withdraw consent, and client decisions must be
based on adequate information (Landue). Following pre-donor steps can greatly lighten the
families stress when a loved one dies. (Two days lapsed in organizing and rearranging
ideas for this research paper. Twenty more people lost their lives due to the shortage of
organs donated.)


There is a lot to overcome in organ donation. Death for one thing; signing documents for
another. This makes the necessary donation process both emotional and difficult. Equal
difficulty arises however, when politics gets involved in who shall be the recipient.

In today's society political influences are universal. One of the ways that politics gets
involved in the organ donating system is how it determines who receives an organ and who
doesn't. Politicians are made geographical location an important role in organ donation.
As of right now donated organs are treated as community resources. The law states a
preference that organs be offered first to a recipient from the donors geographical
community. Although organ allocation should be made in accordance to medical, not social
criteria, it is important to recognize that the line between medical and social criteria
is often blurred.

The difference between life and death are less clear, it used to be that one was
pronounced dead when their heart stopped beating and they had stopped breathing. Now
however, technology makes it possible to maintain respiration and circulation artificially
in persons who are considered dead so that their organs can be removed and used to save
someone else's life (Landau). This is why organ donating is so important. Lives need to
be saved. Everyday there is about ten people who die in the United States while waiting
for an organ donation (Currently). It's quite obvious that there are not enough
transplantable organs to go around (MacPherson). More than half of all eligible donors
refuse to donate their recently deceased family member's organs because they don't know
how the deceased felt about organ donation (MacPherson). This is where the problem lies
because so many more lives would be saved if people really took the time to think about
organ donation. In June of 1998 there were 59,954 patients across the nation waiting for
an organ transplant and last year 19,916 patients actually received transplants. Every 18
minutes another person is added to the waiting list and 10 people on the list will die
each day without an organ (Frei). Statistics show that the majority of people in the U.S.
are willing to donate their organs upon death, and even more indicated their willingness
to donate organs for a loved one if they know that was their wish. Unfortunately less
than one-fifth of these people actually sign donor cards.

Some of the reasons why people choose not to donate are because of their lack of knowledge
on the subject. The reason for this is because it is not often talked about in society.
More and more evidence suggests that Americans are either unaware of the organ shortage or
are confused about the donating process (Perry). So just like anything else that people
are unaware of, myths get created. The first myth is that plenty of people pledge to
donate organs; the truth is our willingness to donate lags far behind medical technology
(Adato). "Some five thousand

Americans need new livers. Only half will get them this year; close to ten percent will
die before a match is found. Another 3,300 are waiting for a heart. One third will get
one; thirteen percent are more likely to die before that happens. The rest continue to
wait."

The second myth is the belief that if one has a donor card, every effort to save their
life won't be made. The fact is medical care is unaffected by a patients willingness to
donate posthumously. In fact no request is made to the family to consider organ donation
until after the doctor signs a death certificate.

The third myth is the belief that donors are taken off life-support in order to reap their
organs. In fact, potential donors are "brain-dead" having already been declared legally
dead because their brains have stopped functioning. These are often victims of sudden,
traumatic deaths by gunshot, car accident, or stroke. Families unprepared for the news
may be confused when they learn that organ functions are being artificially maintained.
When a request for donation is made they may believe, mistakenly, that they are being
asked to decide about terminating life support, when they are really being asked if they
want the machines to be discontinued or if they want to recover the organs (Adato).

The fourth myth is that celebrities get preferential treatment. In fact, time is a
factor, so matches are made locally first. Mickey Mantle got his liver quickly because he
was classified the most critically needy patient in the Dallas area (Adato).

The fifth myth is the minority candidates wait longer owing to bias in the system. In
fact, no consideration is given to race, only to medical facts. In many transplants the
necessary matching antigens are more likely to occur between people of similar race or
ethnicity. Blacks are one of the lowest groups to give to organ donation. All other
organs can be shared between people of different race, ethnicity or gender (Adato).

The sixth myth is that religion prohibits organ sharing. In fact, only Orthodox Judaism
opposed organ donation; and now attitudes in that community are changing. As a matter of
fact the religion misconception is probably the largest one. It's a fact that all major
organized religions support donation. Like the Roman Catholics, some consider it an act
of charity, others a matter of individual conscience. Judaism teaches that saving a human
life takes precedence over maintaining the sanctity of the human body. Baptists approve
organ transplant when the transplantation offers real medical hope for the recipient
(Perry). There really aren't too many people who make up their mind because of those
myths. The fact is that in the polls the majority of people support the idea of donation.
It's because death is just an unpleasant topic to talk about and that’s why so few people
register to donate (Perry).

In organ transplants another issue is availability. Organs are available for transplant
only after a person has been declared brain dead. Determining brain death is based on
strictly medical and legal guidelines. First, the brain must have stopped functioning,
indicated by flat brain waves on an EEG test. In addition, artificial means must be
necessary to maintain heartbeat and breathing. If artificial life-support systems were
removed, all bodily functions would cease. Only at this point does organ donation become
a possibility (Perry). For transplants to be successful, however, time is a critical
factor. Organs must be immediately transferred to the hospitals, or the odds of
successful transplantation dwindle. The window of opportunity varies for different
organs: the kidneys are viable for forty-eight to seventy-two hours, the heart and lungs
for only four to six hours after recovery (Perry).

When an individual has come to the decision that he/she wants to donate their organs there
is a few simple, but necessary steps to do so. First sign a donor card: they are
available at almost all hospitals or can be obtained from local organ procurement
agencies. The second thing to do is share the decision with your family. Unfortunately,
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