After my Chancellor’s Scholarship interview at the University of Pittsburgh (this interview took place right after my two interviews at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine for its 8-year BA/MD program), the dean of the Honors College presented a book to me titled “Many Sleepless Nights: The World of Organ Transplantation.” This book had been selected for me personally based on my indicated academic and professional interests. Boy, was the dean spot on!
I do not have as much time to read for pleasure as I would like what with everything that is keeping me occupied in college, but I did have some time to continue reading this book on the plane ride from Los Angeles to Houston (back to school after Thanksgiving break). One chapter that I am in the middle of reading discusses broaching the subject of organ donation to a family of a patient who had been terminally ill or declared “brain dead.” When discussing organ donation with a patient’s family, the physician can often feel a significant sense of failure and even guilt. The patient’s life could not be saved, and the act of organ donation is only a reminder of this tragedy. As I am maturing and beginning to take stronger opinions on medical and health issues, I have come to the conclusion that should a patient be terminally ill or “brain dead,” the patient’s family should consider organ donation to be a practical and humanistic option. One organ donor can save up to eight lives: pragmatism. As an aspiring physician, I will swear by the Hippocratic Oath to do everything in my power and judgment to save as many lives as possible: humanism.
Of course, situations involving cultural and religious practices, in which bodies may not be disrupted before a particular funeral ceremony, must be taken into consideration. It is not a physician’s place to force a patient or his or her family down a certain path, but a physician can provide keen and compassionate advice. And of course, although my current position on the issue is that I would be a willing organ donor, should one of my family members be the patient, it would be harder for me to follow through with my argument. However, I do believe that I would be able to stick with my current beliefs, writing as an aspiring physician and empathetic human being.