NPR logo Keeping the Newly Dead Ready for Organ Donation

Keeping the Newly Dead Ready for Organ Donation

I've been an organ donor for a long time. I've always been of the belief that once I'm finished using my heart, lungs or whatever, if they can be of use to someone else, please, be my guest. But even I find this idea a little, well, unsettling.

It's pretty well-known that there just aren't enough donated organs to go around to all the people who need them. And until we learn how to grow them — which is, realistically, not as far off as we might think — the shortage will continue. So New York City officials have come up with an idea of how to work the odds in their favor a bit. USA Today reports that, within months, they plan to "dispatch the nation's first ambulance equipped to preserve bodies of the newly dead so that families have time to consider organ donation."

The controversial twist: Crews would swoop in and perform procedures on a corpse without consent in order to preserve the organs until the family had time to give consent for organ donation. No organs would be taken without consent.

The idea of this ambulance roaring through the streets of New York on this particular mission seems like something out of a graphic novel.

Apparently, city officials are hoping that grieving people will be rational enough to give consent for their very recently deceased loved ones' organs to be donated. It's not a totally wild theory. Any reporter who has ever covered a story involving a sudden fatality will tell you that many times the family wants to do whatever it can to preserve the memory of their loved one in a meaningful way.

But does this idea of an ambulance dispatched to keep a victim, well, "fresh," take the desire to harvest organs a step too far? Does it create an unnecessary tension between families of the deceased and the family of those needing an organ donation? Or it this a smart and useful way to take a tragic situation and turn in into something that can be life affirming?



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I know this is going to rub people the wrong way, but tough!
The statement, "aren't enough donated organs to go around", boo-hoo, boo-hoo!
Where was that sentiment when MANDATORY SEATBELT LAWS were passed? Keeping thousands of healthy (and reckless) teenagers alive. Or when airbags became required equipment in cars (the cost past on to the buyer)? Or cutting funding for medical research?

Now, the state wants MY organs because someone weathly has poisoned theirs!

If someone can't take care of their own body, they die! It's a simple principle of nature. Why, would I trust them with MY organs?

On second thought, I'm going to fill-out my donor card.
I'll donate my penis, testicles, and rectum!


Sent by Harold | 1:28 PM | 5-8-2008

This is a problem of people being selfish, and it is easily solved in one of 2 ways.

First, make organ donorship opt-our rather than opt-in. In other words, you're assumed to be an organ donor unless you opt out with a card, bracelet, tatoo or any other obvious method.

Another way would be to maintain a national list of organ donors. The rub is this - if you ever need an organ, your placement on the need list is determined (at least in part) by your presence on the donor list. In other words, if you want to make sure that there will be a organ available to you when you need one, you better sign up to be a donor so that organs will be there when others need.

Sent by Brian Jeffries | 2:21 PM | 5-8-2008

My statement is in the same vein as Harold's above statement with a bit of anger and rubbing people the wrong way.

Having volunteered in this country and done my part to help my fellow man.....the volunteering ends at my body parts.

No! The State cannot have one undonated hair on my head.
No! You cannot take my body parts without my permission, and ask questions later!

Is it going to come to everyone now having to get a tattoo indicating they are not organ donaters?

And furthermore, you can buy one of my organs or all of them....but I am not giving 'em away or donating them to the Savation Army's recycling center or Goodwill's used clothing store.
I know for a fact jack that there is some Saudi Arabian out there who's relative is dying and would love to have one of my kidneys,who can also afford to pay any price for them and is willing to do so. My body would then become an insurance policy of sorts, whereby the money would go to my family, so they in turn could benefit from my body parts and live a healthier better life. It's a win-win for everybody.

Donation NO! Sale YES!

Some of us are waiting for science to catch up with us on this unique idea.

It's the American Way!

Sent by cheyanne | 9:44 PM | 6-17-2008