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 to express my grave concern over the general apathy towards organ donation in the city. The aloofness can be well attested by the recent death of a 19-year-old girl who awaited a double-lung donation but in vain in the end. This tragedy is actually the tip of the iceberg, with about 3000 local patients desperately waiting for organs to live on every day.
To commence with, one of the main reasons behind this tragedy is that many Hongkongers uphold the traditional value of preserving the whole intact body after death. This conventional belief hinders the general public to donate their organs. China is a Confucian society, so Hong Kong is undoubtedly more or less influenced. An old saying also suggests that one’s body is a gift from his parents, so harming that is a disrespectful act towards them. With this concept in mind, quite a lot of Hong Kong people are not willing to have their organs donated after death even if they understand that doing so can actually save a real life. Therefore, this barrier sadly impedes the city’s organ donation.
Besides, the lack of promotion of the organ donation scheme contributes to the city’s low donation rate. It was not until the death of the 19-year-old girl that most of the Hongkongers register and pay heed to this issue again. It is conspicuous that our government has not been doing enough to encourage the general public to be sympathetic towards organ donation. Compared with the London Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Hong Kong’s Centralised Organ Donation Register (CODR) system has started much later than that of London’s. In addition, according to a recent survey, majority of the interviewees do not even know what organs or tissues, excluding the heart, lungs, liver and kidney, can be donated. To be concrete, the cornea, bone and even the skin can actually be donated to rekindle many others’ lives.
The above phenomenon is really worrying and alarming. None of us is immune to this issue simply because everyone may have a chance of needing organ transplant if accidents unfortunately occur. So, what can be done to turn the situation around?
First and foremost, the opt-out scheme is one of the feasible measures to boost our city’s lower-than-normal and shameful organ donation rate. An opt-out scheme, or a presumed-consent scheme, is a program making all Hongkongers potential donors if they do not opt out in their lifetime. While it is true that the scheme may evoke enormous reaction and disapproval from some parties in society, we should not rule out the possibility of implementing this scheme. Some overseas examples have already proven the feasibility of the scheme. For example, an akin presumed-consent scheme was enacted in Singapore 6 years ago, with only around 3% of Singaporeans opting out of donating organs.
Absolutely, education is the fundamental approach to tackle the low donation rate. Even if the opt-out scheme will be in place in future, the ultimate goal should be to educate and inculcate open-minded values into people’s minds. This is undoubtedly a long-term yet effective measure to cope with this issue. Giving more related talks to schools could also be one of the methods to educate. Recognising the benefits of organ donation to other people in our society at a younger age can surely change the deep-seated traditional notion.
In a word, there is a pressing need for the government to implement immediate and long-term measures to tackle this saddening situation. Plus, all parties in society should also join hands to prevent this one-too-many tragedy from happening again. It is hoped that our city can be more loving and we, Hongkongers, are willing to lift a hand to help.
6E Tsang Yui Long, Ronald