Organ Donation: The Myths, Facts, and Controversy

 


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There are something like 92,000 people waiting for organ transplants, and the number of organ donations does not equal that total. Although an average of 74 people per day receive lifesaving transplants, another 19 per day die waiting. Yet the whole issue is clouded with myths and controversy.

Among the many myths of organ donation is the idea that many people in comas are allowed to die to harvest their organs. There is a major difference between brain dead and comatose, and no person in a mere coma will be allowed to die for body donation. It is another myth that doctors treating patients are sometimes influenced by the prospect of another patient in need of a transplant. The truth is that medical treatment teams and transplant teams are always different, and the medical team will fight to save life regardless of the organ donation status of the patient.

Controversy swirls whenever the decision to donate body to science is made. Ethical issues that involve such varied issues as economical factors or religious objections are often involved. These issues must be weighed against the value of life itself. Other issues such as cloning and the use of animal organs for transplants further complicate the issues. Many of these controversies are currently making news as the whole issue of bioethics becomes one of the major philosophical problems of modern society.

There are four different legislative approaches to the issue of organ donation. The first is called the consent solution. This allows organs to be taken only if the patient has consented to this procedure, usually in writing, during his lifetime. The extended consent solution allows next of kin or family members to give permission after the death of the patient. The dissent solution allows the organs to be taken if the patient has not specifically said they did not want it done during their lifetime. The extended dissent solution allows it to be done as long as the family does not specifically dissent after the death of the patient. Each of these approaches has been adopted by various countries around the world. The United States uses the consent solution.

Another worry about organ donation is the effect it has on the body, but this is another myth. Organs are removed by careful incisions and surgical procedures and the wounds are carefully closed. Open casket funerals are not affected by organ donation at all. Despite the continuing myths and the swirling controversy of this issue, the bottom line is that a large number of people have been given a second chance at life. In many cases what has been a senseless tragedy is turned around into a miracle by the body donation. The ethical issues are complex, and each person must make his own decision, but it is helpful to fully understand the difference between the facts and the myths in order to make the right personal decision.

Natalie Aranda writes about health. Among the many myths of organ donation is the idea that many people in comas are allowed to die to harvest their organs. There is a major difference between brain dead and comatose, and no person in a mere coma will be allowed to die for body donation. Controversy swirls whenever the decision to donate body to science is made. Ethical issues that involve such varied issues as economical factors or religious objections are often involved. These issues must be weighed against the value of life itself.

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