It is saddening to hear about the recent death of a 19-year-old girl who waited for a double-lung donation but in vain. In fact, many sick people have no choice but to wait to die due to general apathy towards organ donation in the city. Write an article / a letter to the editor explaining the phenomenon and suggesting feasible measures to turn the situation around.
I am writing in response to the appallingly low organ donation rate in Hong Kong. Unlike Singapore or other developed regions in the world, the rate of organ donation in Hong Kong has remained low despite the calls for changes from different parties. The recent death of a 19 year-old girl, who could have been saved if a double-lung donation had been made in time, just re-alarmed the bell that the issue has to be addressed desperately. Regarding this, I am going to explain the phenomenon and suggest feasible measures to turn the situation around.
To begin with, the traditional belief held by the majority of the citizens is to be blamed. Being born as a Chinese can be a thing to be proud of, but some of the superstitious beliefs do cause so much headache. The mindset that the body of the deceased person should be preserved intact is a case in point. By preserving the corpse, some believe that it is a sign of respect to the person who has passed away. This deters many people from registering to be an organ donor during lifetime. Even though some of the younger ones would like to be organ donors, they cannot reach a consensus with their families. This invariably impedes the progress of organ donation in Hong Kong.
Another culprit causing the phenomenon is also very dominant, yet ridiculous. It is the misconception that once a person opts to become an organ donor, the doctors or the practitioners will not make their utmost efforts to rescue the person from the brink of life, hoping to maximize the number of organs donated. This concept is a humiliation to the professionalism of the people in the medical field. Under no circumstances should one’s life be compromised, not even for organ donation. However, sadly, misled by this misconception, many choose to stay away from making organ donations in order to secure their lives when they are in mortal danger in the future. Again, this makes people treat organ donation as an evil, being apathetic to those waiting for suitable organs.
Adding to this is the lack of communication between organ donors and the family members. Restricted by law, the medical staff cannot harvest a donor’s organs without the agreement from his or her family members. To avoid confrontations, some organ donors do not inform their families about their decisions to help others after death. Therefore, such families are usually more reluctant to let the deceased’s organs be harvested. Actually, the lack of communication is not uncommon in hospitals, and the medical staff has no choice but gives up for the families’ disagreement.
The city, as a whole, is well aware of the dire consequences brought by such general apathy. It is hoped that we do not need another tragedy to remind us about the issue.
In the long run, the situation cannot be turned around without a big change in people’s mind. The best way to achieve this is education. While there are different publications and slogans put forward by the government, the strength is far from enough. In the first place, publicity is inadequate. It just mentions the benefits of organ donation and the details of being a donor. The misconceptions and the traditional beliefs are not addressed in a correct and powerful way. For the education to take effects, the government and the medical sector should deploy more resources to make the publicity more prominent and accurate in light of the areas of misunderstanding held by the general public.
The short-run measure is the opt-out scheme. There have been heated debates as to whether such a controversial scheme should be in place. In my opinion, this is timely, pragmatic and possible. After all, it does not force the people to be the organ donors. Anyone who feels offended has the very right to withdraw. Also, with the legislation, it can be foreseen that the organ donation rate will surge from the rock bottom. It is in the interest of the public. Countries like Spain and Austria are good and sound examples.
With so many tragedies, it is high time the city addressed the problem of insufficient organ donations and turned around the situation that has claimed countless lives and reduced our beloved ones to tears.
Tsang Hoi Ming