The world of medicine is like a bubble. A lot of people THINK they know what goes on there, but unless you're down in the trenches it's unlikely you do. So here is my semi-anonymous blog, here to tell you what really goes on in the life of a medical resident.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

PSA: It's Organ Donation Awareness Week!

Don't be so quick to break out the party hats. Organ donation in Canada isn't much to celebrate. The rates of donation are embarassingly low, and countless Canadians die waiting for organs.

This topic hits a little close to home these days. Just a few weeks ago, my fiance's uncle donated an organ to his sister's husband. The uncle in question, affectionately nicknamed TIB (which stands for 'Terminally Ill Bruce'... my in-laws have an interesting sense of humour) has polycystic kidney disease and has been on dialysis for 3-4 hours, 3 times a week for years. The survival rate for dialysis patients is NOT good. So when uncle Kenneth was found to be a match, it seemed to be a miracle. They weren't related by blood, so the odds were against them. But off they went down to London (Ontario's kidney transplant headquarters) where Bruce's new kidney pinked up before it was completely attached to his urinary system. Go, kidney! Living kidney donations have better success rates than cadaveric transplants, so we're all keeping our fingers firmly crossed.

Recently, there was a story in the paper about a guy who wanted to be considered as an unrelated donor in a liver transplant. The liver regenerates itself, so he wanted to give a section of it to a child on the transplant list. Everyone thought he was crazy to undergo a risky procedure for someone that he didn't even know. He had to undergo days of psychological testing-- apparently, the doctors were suspicious that this was some kind of misguided death wish.

But back to my point. You're dead. You no longer need your organs. Why not share them with someone who does? I'm not talking about donating your entire body to a medical school, for students to cut up and use decapitated arms to give each other high-fives when they managed to name all of the muscles of the forearm (not that that ever happens... really). I'm just talking about giving your corneas so that a blind person can see, your heart to give someone with a cardiomyopathy a second chance at life, your lungs so that someone with pulmonary fibrosis can breathe, your liver so that a child might experience life outside of the hospital... get the drift?

My personal opinion is that our health care system is going about organ donation ass-backwards. I think that rather than tell people to sign cards indicating that they'd like to donate, all organs should be harvested from eligible cadavers unless someone indicates otherwise.

Bottom line... if you DO want to donate your organs, you can sign all the cards you want and it doesn't count for crap. Your next-of-kin still makes the decision on your behalf. So talk to your family. Talk to your spouse. Make it clear that if they don't donate your organs, you'll haunt them from the grave for all eternity.



Blogger Medstudentgod said...


I completely agree with you. I have been an advocate for organ donation for many years and have a few discussions with my wife about why I want her to respect my wishes. She doesn't believe in organ donation after death and we've had some interesting discussions regarding both of our reasons. I figure - you're dead and someone can benefit from you. Why not do one last good thing?

6:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always been pro-organ donation, because, as you say, once I'm gone I'm not going to be needing them anymore so at least someone can benefit from whatever healthy organs I have left.

The father of a very good friend of mine recently had a liver transplant...thanks to a complete stranger, he has a new lease on life...

1:59 PM

Blogger UptownGal said...

In Singapore, we've adopted the "opt-out" basis of organ donation, certain terms & conditions notwithstanding. Personally, i rationally agree that an organ is of no use to me when i die. But emotionally / mentally, it's still a little difficult to swallow that my organs will be removed when i die... but till i have a firm stance on the issue, i'm still 'in' the organ donation program...

Side-tracking, do u mind if i put a link from my blog to yours?

1:59 PM

Blogger Couz said...

The more, the merrier!

2:07 PM

Blogger ArizonaDB said...


I feel exactly as you do, that organ donation is not sufficiently "advertized" and awareness of the severe shortage is not well felt amoung the public. An opt out system does seem to be a lot more beneficial to the program. I think there are far fewer people who explicitly dont want their organs taken than who do or dont care. Its the "Don't Care" group who get completely missed.

I have made my wife well aware that they can take my organs when i am gone and put the sticker on my drivers license as well. :-)

6:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At my medical school a student threw a lung as if it was a football to his friend in lab. He was expelled. We take cadavers very seriously and are greatly respectful (and if you aren't then you don't stick around). So consider donating to medical schools too, we all need to learn so we can become doctors.

9:41 PM


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