Organ Donation: Would you consider it?

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.


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