CNN has been highlighting the story of Sarah Murnaghan – the 10 year old girl from Pennsylvania who has been waiting for a lung transplant for the past 18 months. Her story hit the news because she might die within weeks without new lungs, but US Organ Transplant policy restricts children under 12 from receiving adult organs. This Wednesday, a judge ordered that Sarah be put on the adult transplant list – see story here.
I am a very strong supporter of organ donation. It is such an important issue, that everyone over 18 needs to consider. In Canada, more than 4000 people are currently waiting for organ transplants. Last year, 195 Canadians died while waiting for a transplant. To be an organ donor, one must die in a hospital with your body supported by a ventilator. Interestingly, Canada’s access to better health care practices lowers the probability of death – reducing the pool of available donors. There are more than 25 different transplantable organs and tissues, including: heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, corneas, bone marrow, skin for grafts, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones. Sign your organ donor card, and make sure your family knows that organ donation is your wish.
Kaitlyn’s Nuclear Medicine class went to the morgue at the University of Calgary this week. This field trip was part of their cross-sectional anatomy class, and it gave the girls a hands-on opportunity to examine actual organs and body systems on cadavers. Kaitlyn found the experience to be extremely beneficial, and she appreciated the opportunity. Medical schools use embalmed bodies for education and practice purposes. This learning experience is so important to all students entering the medical field. For this to happen, bodies need to be donated specifically for this purpose and this process can be initiated by requesting a consent form from the educational facility. After your death, the medical school will take possession of your body to use until it has served its teaching purpose, and then is returned to your family for burial.
I have indicated that my body can be used for such medical research (if they want it). Body donation is a very worthwhile cause, but one that many families have reservations about. Religious and spiritual beliefs aside, the use of bodies for medical schools results in proficient medical professionals to maintain Canada’s high standard of health care. Make this part of your living will & health directive.