The God Squad: More on organ donations
Thanks, dear readers, for responding to my appeal for organ donations as a spiritually transcendent act. There are more than 100,000 people waiting for transplants in the U.S., and 60 percent are from marginalized communities, according to the Health Resources and Service Administration. Donate Life America finds that 17 people in the United States die each day waiting for an organ, and a new person is added to the national transplant waiting list every nine minutes. When it comes to kidney donations; the wait from a deceased donor is three to five years, or longer. There are almost 90,000 people on the national transplant waiting list in need of a kidney.
Q: Rabbi Gellman, I had to respond to your recent column on organ donation. I had the privilege to work with transplant patients preparing for and recovering from lung transplant for 30 years. I've witnessed a father who had infant children who after 20-plus years (since transplant), has seen them grow and graduate from college. I am not a bumper sticker person, but I had this one on my car for years. 'Don't take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here." The God I know would approve. Love your column, -- (from S)
Q: Hello, Rabbi Marc,. My wife Nancy and I have been reading your column every week for years and appreciate your wisdom. Your recent columns about organ donations and end-of-life decisions have inspired me to send this response. FYI, I am registered on my NC driver’s license as a willing organ donor, but unless I donate part of my liver or one of my kidneys, that donation will take place only after my death.
I want to offer another donation that can also save lives and that I can do while I am still around to enjoy the experience. I have been an American Red Cross whole blood and platelet donor since 1975 -- the first 12 years as whole blood and the next 35 years giving platelets. Also, I am not a Red Cross employee, just a committed donor. Platelets are the clotting cells in the blood and only live for 10 days, so your body compensates by making them by the millions every day! About 50 percent of them go to treat cancer patients and the rest are used in surgeries, including organ transplants, joint replacements and trauma surgeries. Statistically, only about 5 percent of eligible Americans donate whole blood and only 1 percent donate platelets! The Red Cross gets the platelets into a recipient within five days, so there is no "shelf life" and we need to increase the donor base! Thanks for your time and may God continue to bless you! -- (D from Raleigh, NC).
A: The Bible teaches in Deuteronomy 12:23 that, “The blood is the life.” Thank you, dear D, for saving life by giving blood. I endorse your hemo-compassion … however blood donation and platelet donations are no replacement for organ donations. We all need to consider letting our bodies give new life particularly as they return to the dust.
This sci-fi suggestion came from A in Nesconset, NY:
Thank you for recommending organ donations to your readers. I agree 100 percent It is time to fund research into “organ farms” where we grow and culture bodily organs to replace those injured, diseased, or damaged. Some organs like livers and skin are easy to grow, others may require “artificial assistance (robotics)”. The ethical question is paramount, as we are all God’s children and we are under obligation to God to repair the world. We need more scientific research and funding for “organ farms” to make the world a better place and guidance from the clergy on the ethics and integrity of such donations. I LOVE your column and also miss Father Tom, almost as much as you, Remember, God had other plans for Father Tom’s soul to heal and help.
A: I support organ farms though the term seems moderately creepy. We are already using animal heart valves to replace diseased human valves so I see no problem in producing organs in a lab that will help the severe need for healthy organs. The ethical problems are obvious. As with all new and expensive medical technologies, the poor will not have access to the “designer kidneys”. What I am pleading for is an increase in our sacrificial compassion to all who are in need of healing.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
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