Friday, May 23, 2008

Organ donation can ensure life for others

From The Intelligencer, Belleville, Ontario, Canada:

"There is no good reason not to be an organ donor. Giving life to another is the best way to truly make a difference in someone's life. This is a gift we should all seriously consider giving"

Many Canadians put forth a genuine effort to help make our country a better place. From volunteering to recycling, we strive to do our part to make our country and its people better.

It is all part of a very natural human desire to have our lives mean something.

And yet despite all our conscientiousness, there is one area where we are failing miserably - organ donation.

In Ontario, the need for organs and tissue donations continues to outweigh their availability. According to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, more than 1,800 Ontarians are waiting for an organ transplant and many others are waiting for a tissue transplant. In 2004, a total of 122 Ontarians died waiting.

This is truly sad. It is also unnecessary - statistics show many people are in favour of organ donation. The problem is, not enough people are acting on their beliefs.

The first step to becoming an organ donor is by making your decision known, either by signing an organ and tissue donor card or by registering your consent through your provincial registry, Health Canada states on its website. However, deciding to become an organ donor is not enough. You must discuss the issue with your loved ones.

Many fear organ donation is a very invasive process, making some relatives leery of giving their consent. Organ donation is not an invasive process, however - open-casket funerals are still possible. When clothed, the body shows no outward sign of surgery. (See Common Myths About Organ Transplants)

Also, in most parts of the country, doctors will not proceed with organ donation without the consent of the family.

A death in the family is a sad and stressful time and making such a decision is not easy for the next of kin - only 58 per cent of relatives agree when they have not been included in the process in advance whereas 96 per cent agree if they already know the wishes of the donor.

Local couple Don Tyerman and Katherine Lawrie-Tyerman are truly an example to follow.

Two years ago, a tragic car accident left Katherine in hospital brain dead. And because the couple had discussed their wishes years before, Tyerman knew exactly what his wife of 16 years would want him to do.

Tyerman still remembers her words: "If I should end up in a bed that I can't get out of, I want you to turn the machine off," she said. "I don't want to be a burden to others. I want my organs to be used to help others.

"The person that we knew was gone," said Tyerman. "I knew exactly what the next step was. She had told me. I had to honour her wishes, no matter what."

Katherine's family - who supported the donation - was with her as life support ended and her body died. While a severe fever meant some previously healthy organs couldn't be used, her kidneys and eyes would later be transplanted.

Tyerman said he takes comfort in having granted Katherine's wishes, and has worked to raise awareness of the need for such donations.

"There's no question that there's a healing component to it as well - the notion that her death, her loss, was not a waste," he said.

"It's important to think that someone else's family is not going to be going through what we're going through. In a sense it made losing my partner easier."

Despite some beliefs, organ donations are not a longshot. Health Canada reports nearly 98 per cent of all kidney transplants, 90 per cent of liver transplants, and 85 per cent of heart transplants are successful.

Transplants also make good economic sense. For instance, Health Canada says the cost of a kidney transplant averages $20,000 plus $6,000 per year thereafter - $50,000 over five years. Maintaining a kidney patient on dialysis costs $50,000 per year which translates into $250,000 over five years.

There is no good reason not to be an organ donor. Giving life to another is the best way to truly make a difference in someone's life. This is a gift we should all seriously consider giving.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through cornea and tissue donation

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