Catherine Wang is a biomedical science student at McGill University, specializing in anatomy and cell biology.
Have you ever clicked away from a tab asking you to chip in a few dollars, or told the cashier “not today” when they asked you to give money to a charity? It’s okay, I have too. There is a lot to consider when making a donation; whether it be time, money or material objects, it is normal to concern ourselves with our own needs before thinking about giving to others. This leaves me wondering — how do you decide what to give and when to give it?
Let’s say you have an old sweater. You’ve worn it for years and it now fits just a bit too tight around the collar and the sleeves are too short. You know you won’t wear it again. Naturally, it ends up in your donation pile. You find some comfort in the fact that someone else can make use of it. Of course, the sweater will better serve its purpose being worn by someone else than sitting at the back of your closet.
I like to think that organ donation works in the same way. A donor’s organs can be given to as many as eight recipients, thus improving, or even saving the recipient’s life. Registering to be an organ donor gives each and every one of us the opportunity to posthumously save a life, and it costs us nothing.
There are hundreds of thousands of successful organ transplants documented each year, saving the lives of people worldwide. Individuals affected by illness or disease are gifted their health and can go on to live rewarding lives. But for every successful transfer, there are many more people who die waiting. Somebody’s mother, father, sibling, child, or friend will pass away while waiting for the day they receive a transplant. What if that somebody was you?
There’s no debate around the demand for organs. The Organ Project reports that over 4500 people in Canada are waiting for a transplant, 200 of whom die each year. We have not nearly met the growing demand for organ donations.
In order to coordinate a transplant, the donor and recipient must have compatible blood types. Even so, organs are sometimes rejected by the recipient due to an immune response, meaning that only a small number of individuals needing a donation will receive one. The fact is that the more people that register to donate, the more successful donations there are.
Studies show that organ donation is a cornerstone in medical education and research. The International Institute of the Advancement of Medicine explains that donated human organs and tissues allow for the study of precursors to disease and drug action on target organs. This furthers scientists’ understanding of diseases affecting virtually all organs in the body, allowing them to improve treatment methods for thousands of people worldwide.
Experts say that most people agree with the premise of organ donation, yet there is a disconnect between their beliefs and their actions. Indeed, it is reported by the United States’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that over 90% of adults support organ donation, while only 60% are donors themselves. This disparity is due to a number of different reasons.
Understandably so, many people choose not to donate because it does not align with their religious beliefs. Of course, this decision is very personal and falls in your own hands. Many religions, however, support the donation of select organs, as summarized by the HRSA. It would be worthwhile to explore the options to donate some organs, if possible.
Some tend to shy away because the thought of death is scary. Others may fail to register due to laziness.
We must bridge the gap between intent and action. After all, this is about life and death. I encourage you to have these conversations with family and loved ones. Spread the word, educate, donate what you can by registering now. A few minutes of your day could give someone else a whole lifetime.
To learn more about becoming an organ or tissue donor, click by province and/or territory below: