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 wait to die due to the general apathy towards organ donation in the city. Write a letter to the editor explaining the phenomenon and suggesting feasible measures to turn the situation around.
I am writing in response to the recent death of a 19 year-old girl who had waited in vain for a double-lung donation for more than two weeks. Without the suitable lungs in time, she died eventually. Lamentably, the whole city was actually witnessing her death, through the social media, without trying to lift a finger to help. From my point of view, the poignant story has definitely sounded the alarm about the city’s shameful donation rate and the general apathy towards organ donation.
In fact, there are two main reasons accounting for this disheartening phenomenon. They are the traditional Chinese belief and the limitations of the present city’s organ donation system.
To begin with, many Hongkongers, especially the older generation, still hold the belief that the dead body should remain intact as this shows respect for the deceased. The bereaved relatives may treat the action of removing organs from the corpses as non-filial and non-respectful, and therefore refuse to donate the organs of the loved one. What’s more, death is one of the taboos in traditional Chinese beliefs. The elderly or even the adolescents may not be brave enough to talk to their families about their wishes after death, burying their compassionate thoughts deep in the heart. These kinds of outdated traditional thinking inevitably give rise to the general apathy towards organ donation in the city.
Apart from the unfavourable conventional beliefs, the problem of the current organ donation system is another cause to blame. First of all, the opt-in scheme is never an effective measure to achieve a high donation rate in Hong Kong, given that Hongkongers are less sympathetic and fear of troubles nowadays. Even if they appreciate the significance of organ donation, they may not register as potential donors because of unknown ‘troublesome’ procedures. This shows that the organ donation system and procedures have not yet been widely publicized. Furthermore, although citizens could register as potential donors in their life time, the decision of the bereaved family always speaks louder than that of the deceased. That is, the bereaved relatives are able to reject the wish of the loved one, disapproving his original great ambitions. As a result, it is not surprising to hear that the donation rate in Hong Kong is low and far below the average among many developed regions.
In a bid to turn around this worrying situation, the government should spare no pains to educate the public about the importance and significance of organ donation so as to increase the city’s donation rate in the long run. Since many people are too often constrained by Chinese cultural tradition, it is vital for the government to inculcate a correct and positive message of organ donation into their minds. For example, people whom have been helped through organ transplant could be invited to share their unique experiences with the general public. Only by alerting and educating the public thoroughly will people abandon their conservative misconceptions and try to accept this ‘innovative’ idea.
Moreover, it is high time the government stepped up for the presumed-consent scheme in order to boost the city’s donation rate considerably in the short term. In this way, only those oppose donating organs will opt out proactively, while most others’ organs could be donated to the patients in need after death. The scheme also reduces ‘trouble’ for those who are willing to be a potential donor. Singapore is a case in point. On the other hand, the government must ensure that the transplant system is completely transparent so as to dispel public anxiety.
To conclude, it is never a better choice to bury or cremate the whole intact bodies of our passed beloved ones than to donate their organs to the patients with urgent needs. Let us change our traditional mindsets, fueling the wishes of those patients waiting for organ transplant to continue their precious lives.
6E Lee Wai Lok