From The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pennsylvania:
The death of a loved one is emotionally devastating, all the more so when the death is unexpected. For some, there may be a measure of consolation in the knowledge that their loved one's passing may save others' lives.
Organ donation provides individuals with a final opportunity for life-saving generosity. Eighteen people die each year on waiting lists for organ transplants. One donor can help as many as 50 people who are in need of organs, eyes, bones, joints or skin. The need for volunteers willing to participate in organ donation programs is hampered because few people die in a manner that provides suitable conditions. Less than two percent those who die in the U.S. are potential organ donors.
Appreciating the positive outcome of organ donation may be easy. Accepting the thought that a loved one's remains will be "harvested" seems more difficult.
Steve and Lore Pifer, of Galeton, went through the wrenching experience when their 21-year-old son, Sam, was gravely injured in a car accident. As they gathered around their dying son, they were approached by a representative of the Gift of Life, the group that coordinates organ donation locally. Through confusion created by a stressful situation or because of poor communication, the Pifers thought they had the opportunity to decline to participate. They did not.
The law seems clear enough -- if a person indicates a willingness to donate organs when applying for a driver's license, officials with the transplant program have the right to the deceased's organs regardless of the views of surviving relatives. The provision seems reasonable considering the dire need and number of lives that stand to benefit.
The Gift of Life representative's role is supposed to be purely informative rather than aimed at obtaining consent if a patient has previously agreed to be an organ donor. Communicating with grieving relatives about a delicate subject is no easy task, and officials with the transplant program say they try to approach relatives with tact and empathy. In the Pifers' experience, something went awry.
Hospitals might be able to relieve some of the tension by posting signs in critical care rooms advising relatives about the organ donor law and its implications. As precious a gift as organ donation is, care ought to be given to alleviate the emotional toll on grieving relatives.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through cornea and tissue donation