Illinoisans: Go Be Organ Donors October 29, 2007

Illinoisans: Go Be Organ Donors

Apparently, signing the back of your driver’s license isn’t good enough anymore. You need to be listed in the state’s new organ/tissue donor registry.

It takes 30 seconds.

Just have your license or state ID number handy.

Then, fill out this brief form.

If you don’t live in Illinois, click here to find out how you can donate.

It would make more sense to me if people had to fill out a form if they didn’t want to donate their organs… just make donation the default option. We’d all be better off that way.

There’s no good reason not to be an organ donor. It’s selfish to want to keep your organs after you die if your parts can help someone else. Donate them, or just donate your whole body to science. Medical students benefit from studying real cadavers.

For skeptics, here are some common myths about organ/tissue donation along with responses to them.

(Thanks to Lisa for the link!)

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  • I’ve never understood why being an organ donor isn’t the default? Why would someone care if their organs were used in someone else or their body was used for science? What’s so sacred about a dead body? The actual “person” in the body no longer exists, so what does it matter if the organs are harvested, it isn’t going to affect that person in any way since there is no “that person” any more. Seems to me the only people affected are the ones who are still living. I guess the living are just too damn selfish to help others.

  • Jen

    In Europe, apparently, donation is the default position.

    The only good reason I have ever heard for not donating your organs is that one cannot donate their organs to the transplant list AND their bodies to science, which makes sense, I suppose.

  • Gadren

    It’s wonderful to see other kindred minds who understand the need for an opt-out system of organ donation. It’s the only sensible one, because those who would be objecting for their own selfish reasons can opt out and those who don’t care will be treated as if they don’t care. We get more organs, those who want to let their organs rot can let them — everyone wins.

  • Aj

    The myths are quite entertaining, not sure they would satisfy “skeptics”, don’t like using that word for climate change deniers, anti-science movements (e.g. anti-vaccine) and conspiracy freaks,

    I’ve heard many people, some of them curiously in the medical profession, that claim doctors would treat organ donors differently. Unless there’s a level of conspiracy of who gets the organs, that I’ve yet to see evidence of, I don’t see a reasonable explanation for doctors to favour someone on the transplant list over me.

    I’ve carried a donor card since I was 16, and informed my parents that I wish my body to be used for transplants and donated to science. I think it’s one of the most selfish acts not to. I’ve also thought organ donation should be opt-out.

    I’m thinking about writing to Damon Hirst and asking him if he needs another skull to be diamond encrusted.

    Even after death, every effort is made to ensure that your loved one’s body is treated with the same degree of respect as is someone who is alive.

    They can fuck my corpse for all I care.

    The rich and famous aren’t given priority when it comes to allocating organs.

    If only I could be so sure about transplants in my country. Apparantly, celebrity alcoholics can get a liver, and then keep drinking, dying a couple of years after the operation.

    Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most larger religious denominations in the United States. This includes Catholicism, Protestantism and most branches of Judaism. If you’re unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith’s position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.

    Or employ critical thinking and become an atheist, and don’t let someone else that doesn’t know tell you what to think.

  • Chas

    I like the form’s question where did you hear about the campaign. Although I didn’t expect the pulldown to contain an atheist’s blog, I was surprised that it did contain “church’s chicken.”

    Do religious people really talk to poultry? Things must have changed since I’ve last been to mass.

  • Polly

    I can see certain situations that may give rise to preferential treatment to the detriment of a patient.
    If I’m 60 or 70 years old with a few, still relatively healthy organs left and the doctor knows of a child who needs one of those organs…well, let’s just say the downside of my passing on the operating table (or wherever) will be greatly eased by the hope offered to a young life as a result of my demise. Other value judgments also come into play.

    Having said that, I think such a scenario would be rare. But, it’s naive to think it wouldn’t happen. My father has worked in surgery for decades. Many doctors are FAR, FAR from ethical. And there is a market for organs.

    It’s a great idea to be a donor, but I don’t think it should be the default. Even cadavers don’t automatically belong to the state or the medical community. We don’t override property rights just because we want to dictate what’s best. Sure it’s selfish to keep your dead organs, but people have the right to be selfish in the USA.

  • Diane

    Even though I was an econ major in college, I managed to swing permission to visit the human dissection lab with a pre-med friend. It was probably the most fascinating, educational, and humbling day of my college career. Thanks for reminding me to re-register – I had meant to, just never had a reminder when I was actually at a computer!

  • Sorry in advance for the really long comment. =)

    Most states have ruled that dead bodies cannot be property at all. My state in particular, California, had an incident where a famous musician (Gram Parsons) died and his friends stole the body and brought it to Joshua Tree to burn it. To quote from the media:

    “The men were tracked down a few days later, but there was no law against stealing a body, so they were charged with stealing the coffin or, as one cop put it, “Gram Theft Parsons.””

    I would say the disposal of a person’s body should be subject to that person’s will or, lacking that, defaulting to donation.

    There is, however, a problem with this in the case of people who die unexpectedly, and do not write a will. Imagine, for example, an eight-year-old boy being hit by a car and dying two days later in the hospital due to subdural hematoma.

    Specific, yes, but that’s ’cause it happened to my friend’s little brother about a month ago. Needless to say, they were (and still are) heartbroken, and I would imagine most would agree they should get to decide what to do with the body.

    For many, having a funeral is a useful grieving process. Not for me — I hate the very idea of funerals and never have nor ever will attend(ed) one — but in a case such as this, it’s hard to really justify a default of donation.

    So… maybe there should be some cut-off age, say senior citizen age (65 here), at which point people should reasonably be expected to have a will. And if they don’t, then we can assume they don’t care, and hack them up for research.

    Now, with *organ* donations, this is another story. I do not see why we can’t take the useful bits out of someone who’s been hit by a car as long as the exterior of the corpse is preserved. If my little brother were hit by a car and killed tragically, I’d be devastated, but I’d have no problem with the news that his kidneys would be removed and given to prevent yet another needless death. Indeed, I think it’d make me feel better to know my brother was, in the only real sense, still out there helping people. =)

    My body is allocated for educational use at UCLA medical, although I think I am on the list for organ donation as well… I don’t expect that to be around by the time I die — we’ll be cloning the organs, or regenerating them in corpo by then. =)

  • John

    Remember: As atheists, this is the only chance at afterlife that we believe in!

  • Over half of the 97,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage — give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

  • ash

    seeing as most here seem to agree with donation as default, i’m gonna address this to Polly (sorry hon, but if you will argue intelligently…!)

    in donation as default, people could still opt out, there is no reason for someone to not be ‘selfish’!

    in the case of the 8yr old cited above, at the mo in the UK, doctors would have to broach the subject of organ donation with a grieving family often too distraught to even want to think about such (and even if the minor were carrying a donor card, in the UK the family has the right to overturn donor decisions made at any age)…there exists every possible chance that, even if the family agrees to donation, by the time of this decision the organs are no longer viable. in this case, i’d argue that default donation with pre-existing opt-out options would actually be far less traumatic to the family.

    i agree safeguards would have to be put in place to protect against unethical behaviour – perhaps if default donation was applicable only between certain ages we could save/enrich the lives of hundreds(+) without such a huge risk?

  • Richard Wade

    Dave Undis said,

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage– give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    That is a very interesting idea. I’d be interested if anyone sees any ethical problems with favoring registered donors over those who are not, but it is an intriquing suggestion. I’ve been registered since the program first started in my state, but I know people often need a little more “inspiration” for this act. There’s nothing like sweetening the deal with a little self interest to make altruism more attractive.

    Robert Goulet died last night at age 73 while waiting for a lung transplant.

  • Polly

    I like Dave Undis’s suggestion. I thought about it, but I really can’t see any ethical problems with it any more than the existing problems of who gets to decide who receives transplants now.
    No one has a right to organs, so those who are willing to donate their own, by the principle of reciprocity (which I just made up) should come before those who aren’t willing to part with their dearly departed appendages. Except where some are specifically barred from signing up for organ donation, I have no qualms about this idea.

  • Polly

    Which one(s) of my statements did you find unintelligent?

  • Jen

    Richard Wade- here is the issue I see with requiring people to be organ donors to get organs (much as I like the idea):

    1. People who are unable to donate organs (due to medicines or age or method of death or whatever would make them unable to donate) could say they totally would donate their organs, really, but just can’t, what a shame. Therefore, having to donate after death is only a reality for some of the people seeking transplants.

    2. Someone who decided they don’t want to donate their organs is now in a position where they need an organ or will die. Therefore, requiring them to donate (which probably wouldn’t hold up in court or with their families) is in effect withholding life-saving treatment over… selfishness, or some sort of personal religion, or some other personality flaw that still probably shouldn’t have to kill them.

    I like the idea, but I am not sure it would be feasible.

  • ash

    @Polly, dude, please tell me you didn’t take that as an insult? if so i apologise most profusely, really honestly sorry…

    i actually meant that you seemed to be the only person here specifically arguing against donation as default, and as i also actually respect your ability to argue in an intelligent manner, it was worth me addressing my comment to you. no sarcasm, no disrespect intended.

  • Polly


    Oh, I didn’t know that.
    I wasn’t offended. I just thought you’d point out something that I missed ‘cuz sometimes, I overlook some obvious rebuttals.
    Thanx for clearing that up though. 🙂

  • Aj


    1. People who are unable to donate organs (due to medicines or age or method of death or whatever would make them unable to donate) could say they totally would donate their organs, really, but just can’t, what a shame. Therefore, having to donate after death is only a reality for some of the people seeking transplants.

    They don’t know how they’re going to die, and if they die, they don’t need the organs anyway, it shouldn’t effect their ranking. I don’t think there’s many people who can’t donate organs if you factor out the way they die. I’m willing to let those people go above the ones that could donate but won’t.

    2. Someone who decided they don’t want to donate their organs is now in a position where they need an organ or will die. Therefore, requiring them to donate (which probably wouldn’t hold up in court or with their families) is in effect withholding life-saving treatment over… selfishness, or some sort of personal religion, or some other personality flaw that still probably shouldn’t have to kill them.

    It’s not withholding life-saving treatment, but the effect is the same. Think of it as a tax, like road tax, that people have to pay if they want to drive on public roads. It’s fair and it encourages people to change their behaviour in a way that would solve the problem in the first place. They don’t have an automatic right to organs.

  • Jen

    Ash- re: 1. I was speaking of people who are more likely to die in such a way that would render their organs unusable. Of course, there is no way to guarentee how you will die short of well-planned suicide, but a deep sea diver is more likely to drown than I am, but I might be more likely to be shot than someone who works at home. Or something along those lines.

    As to who can donate- according to the kidney foundation in Canada:
    Who cannot donate an organ?
    People with a history of cancer, hepatitis, or HIV/AIDS usually cannot donate. But even with that there are exceptions. Each case is looked at individually.

    Therefore, a person who needs a liver tranplant who has cancer is less likely to be able to donate after death. Therefore, whatever weird thing stops people from wanting to donate is less likely to affect the cancer patient than the non-cancer patient who needs a cornea, who is more likely to then have to donate their organs after death accord to the system RW is proposing.

    Re: #2- road taxes are an interesting metaphor, In my state, we pay a certain amount of taxes to drive on most roads, and we pay a fee to ride certain roads- the tollways. But people who don’t pay taxes- the poor, the tax cheaters, whatever, can still use the roads. Now, I am not a libertarian, and I think tax collection is the most fair way to build roads. But certainly not everyone who pays taxes on these roads are driving on them, even if they are benefiting from the Coca-Cola truck driving on them, and not everyone who doesn’t pay taxes stays off them, or again, doesn’t benefit from Coke driving down them. If donating organs is like paying for roads, then the system seems to already be in place- there is a pool of organs, and some people who use this pool (are going to) donate and some are not, but the benefits aren’t evenly distributed.

    Of course, the real problem is that some people are going to fake their willingness to donate in order to get an organ, and then they could easily have their heirs refuse to donate their organs upon death. I am not sure a court would deny a family that right to decide what happens to their dead relative’s organs, paperwork be damned. And if they claim their family member was a part of a religion that refuses to donate organs, I really, really doubt the court would force the family to have their dearly departed person cut up after death if it was somehow about Jesus or something. It could even be that the recently dead person wanted their organs donated in exchange for a liver, but their family refused.

    And then where does that leave the people who are not likely to be able to donate their organs- the HIV+ patient, the cancer survivor, the hep victim? Do we deny them organs because someone else needs them and that cornea-needing-otherwise-healthy person is more likely to be able to donate their organs post-death?

    It’s a nice idea, I just don’t think it is practical in the slightest.

  • Aj

    I did think of that but regardless of certain activites, I think the will to donate is good enough. People who weren’t willing to donate until they couldn’t should obviously not be ranked higher. It’s not about being completely fair, some people who can’t donate should still be ranked high, like people born with HIV, or people who signed up to be a donor before they got it.

    My analogy wasn’t meant to be taken that far. I guess a better analogy is an incentive system, more than road tax. I grabbed for an idea of something citizens in a lot of places sign up for to get benefits from.

    The road tax system doesn’t fall apart because people cheat. As long as there’s an overwhelming majority who don’t, and there’s a system in place to try to stop people cheat.

    If you sign away your organs in return of the chance to recieve organs, I don’t see how families who want to renege would succeed in courts.

    I’m not saying it’s the only way to solve the problem, I bet libertarians are going to hate it. Let the invisible hand of the market decide who gets organs!

    Perhaps a less radical solution would be to allow potential donors decide who gets organs. For example, people who could, but are unwilling to sign up to be organ donors would be on my list of people not getting my organs. You can decide which charity you donate your money to.

  • Thanks for calling attention to this crucial issue and the need for Illinois residents to RE-REGISTER post Jan. 1, 2006 to ensure their wishes as a donor are honored. Every registration is crucial to the 4,700 Illinois residents and more than 98,000 people nationwide awaiting a second chance at life.

    Just ask Corinne…

    Thanks again,
    Scott M.
    Donate Life Illinois – Campaign Manager

  • Hermant,

    I noticed the link above to the registration form is broken. We did some site updates early this year, anyhow here is the link to the registration form.


  • I noticed the link above to the registration form is broken.

    Fixed! Thanks, Scott.

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