This column first appeared
in the Syracuse Post Standard
December 20, 2011
I live in Central New York State, where we are grieving the loss of 17-year-old Taylor Fleming who died in a car accident last week.
In the face of their unimaginable heartbreak and pain, Taylor’s parents decided to donate her organs and tissues, knowing that at least something good could come of her death. They realized their loss, and Taylor’s donation, will help others by extending their lives, or improving the quality of their lives.
Taylor’s eyes will provide sight to someone who has been blind. Her skin will help a burn victim heal. Her lungs may help someone with cystic fibrosis or COPD. Her heart, kidneys and liver will restore lives. Sixty transplants from Taylor’s body are already benefitting others.
Like Taylor’s parents did on her behalf, we can make the choice to donate our own organs and tissues when the time comes, too – whether we die through tragedy, or from natural causes.
Sadly, despite knowing that tens of thousands across the country are waiting for transplants, too few people consider themselves eligible to donate. You may believe you can’t be a donor, but you are probably wrong.
For example, some people think their religions preclude organ donation. But no major American religions restrict donation, including Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Some people believe that if they are chronically or terminally ill, they can’t or shouldn’t donate. But that is also a myth. Your donation may not take place directly to an individual, but your contribution to medical research may ultimately improve thousands or millions of lives.
There are three important steps for you to take if you decide to donate your organs or tissues. First, sign the organ donor statement on the back of your driver’s license while someone else watches you. Second, check to see if your state has an organ donation registry (we have such a registry in New York) and sign up to ensure your wishes will be carried out.
Finally, and perhaps most important – discuss your wishes with your family. Whether or not you can actually donate when the time comes can be decided by the professionals when it happens. Understanding your wishes will allow your family to have the conversation.
We never know when tragedy will strike. But we can honor those who have been lost by making the commitment to donate our own organs and tissues upon death.
Note: a reader has reminded me of another excellent gift: Registering for the Bet the Match bone marrow registry, too. Learn more.
Here are some additional resources for
end of life choices:
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