That’s an alarming headline, isn’t it? You can read the article, written by Sharon Kirkey of the National Post, here. At first glance, it sounds like, if you donate an organ as a living donor, for example, a kidney or a part of your liver, the result is that you will gain weight and consign yourself to poor health. However, the donors being referred to are actually deceased or “cadaveric” donors.
To me this is a good news-bad news story. As the article points out, typically the most likely donor candidates for organ transplants were healthy young people who had suffered traumatic head injuries in motor vehicle accidents. The good news is that such tragic deaths have decreased over the years. The bad news, at least from the point of view of potential organ recipients, is that fewer organs are available from this young deceased donor source.
Clearly, no one is about to form a lobby asking the government to repeal motorcycle helmet laws or automobile seatbelt laws. As those of us on transplant waiting lists face the reality of our own disease-shortened lives, we are all about preserving life. It is no little thing to realize that one’s life may be saved because another’s life has been lost.
This leads to the other good news that is in this story. Even realizing that the donors being referred to in the headline are deceased donors, it sounds like the quality of donor sources is deteriorating. This sounds like bad news. On the contrary, I view this as good news. Because of improvements in transplant medicine, the pool of transplant donors is being expanded. Eventually, all of us die. Few of us die from catastrophic accidents in our youth. To be able to draw on the organs from donors who would previously have been rejected is a good thing.
How to respond to this? Well, what it means is that you no longer need to think that, because you may have health issues, there is no need to register as an organ donor. Let the doctors make that assessment. You may be a better candidate than you think. In Ontario, go to http://beadonor.ca/ to register.