Monday, October 8, 2007


A few months ago my sister and cousin died. They were stark contrasts of what can happen in life if you get hooked on drugs or what happens when you persevere and do everything that’s asked of you. I find it interesting that the discussion of the two is often very different as well – where my sister’s death is often regarded as a blessing (since she was as good as anyone had seen her for years) and my cousin’s a tragedy due to the potential he had. I’d grown accustomed to these discussions. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, is the description I was told regarding my cousin’s burial arrangements months after his funeral.

You see, he was an organ donor, and being a healthy male without any diseases (despite an apparently bad heart) he was a gold-mine. My uncle and aunt had opted to dress their son for his funeral, but were unprepared for what they found. Their description of the event, the nightmares it gave them, and the complete lack of “comfort” that my uncle had felt while getting his dad ready for burial was shocking to me.

His body was nothing more than pipes, plastic coverings, and a shell of his former self. His eyes were taken, his bones, his skin, his organs…everything had been removed leaving merely a morsel of his former self. My uncle said he wished that they’d cremated him instead because it was such a horrific experience.

Being an organ donor myself I find it hard to think about this and the toll it took on their grieving minds. Wife is very against my donating for fear that I wouldn’t be whole anymore. I’d often thought of this as silly, but have since reconsidered. Could I force my wife to bear that burden my uncle and aunt faced? Is it selfish to want something like that when it can damage your loved ones?

Whatever it is I have thought a lot about donating. I’ve not changed my card, but I continue to ponder what I should and shouldn’t donate. It’s a great choice, but far less simplistic than I’d ever considered.


MrHunnybun said...

In the UK you can choose which organs(s) you wish to donate on the donor card. Is it not the same in the US?

I guess it also depends on one's religious viewpoints. I'm of the "when you are dead, you are dead, and that's it" persuasion. I'm not worried about still being whole and neither is my wife. I guess we'd rather think of the potential benefit our donated organs may bring.

Viewing of the dead body is also something that doesn't really happen in the UK. (Remember I draw my whole experience of US dead bodies from watching "Six Feet Under" where everybody seems to go and view the corpse)I agree, a cremation sounds like it would have been a better option in this case.

Currently an opt-out rather than opt-in organ donation system is being discussed here. It will increase teh pool of donor organs, but may well cause other problems. Are saved lives more important than upset relatives?

yublocka said...

Australia has a similar system to what mrhunnybun describes in the UK. Also, AFAIK they are supposed to restore the bodies cosmetic appearance to their original state (in the same way done for an autopsy) to avoid the concerning situation you've just described. That would definitely be distressing for family members!