I can’t find it now, but right after the Sarah Murnaghan controversy, some columnist somewhere wrote an article about how she didn’t see a happy ending there, and she refused to celebrate someone’s death.
Many parents of kids who need organ transplants face a similar internal discussion – in order for my kid to live, someone else has to die. How can I be happy for my kid when another family is facing death?
Here’s the thing, though.
They’re NOT killing people to harvest their organs, ok? Those people were going to die anyway.
There’s a HUGE difference between “someone died so my kid could live” and “someone died, and then as a result my kid could benefit.” The donor is not laying down their life in any purposeful way – in most cases, they’re just dying. They died. They would have died whether they were an organ donor or not.
And then, after they died, your kid derived a benefit from that death.
This is a good thing!
And it’s often such a point of joy – JOY – for the donor’s family. Their loved one is able to give an incredible, precious gift as their last act on this Earth. Their loved one, in a way, is continuing to live on.
After my mom died, we found out that she could donate her corneas. None of her other organs were worth anything (she had diabetes, kidney failure, heart failure, and after a lifetime of high blood sugars, I don’t think ANY of her organs would have made any kind of gift), but her corneas could still be used. Oh, how I wish she had known that before she died. She would have been so, so happy. As it was, that phone call from the Lions was definitely the high point of that whole week. Knowing that her corneas could give someone else the gift of sight – amazing. That she, who worried so much that her diabetes would take her vision before we grew up, could give someone else such an amazing gift. It brings me to tears every time I think about it. I’m crying as I write this, in fact.
I know her death wasn’t sudden or traumatic. We knew it was coming. She was lucky to live as long as she had. So, no, I haven’t been there in the shoes of someone making sudden decisions after their loved one has a motorcycle accident or commits suicide. I cannot imagine what that must be like. But I am still a donor family. I do know what that’s like. And it’s AMAZING.
Deceased donor transplants are emotionally charged, that is certain. Most recipient families are VERY aware that, while they’re rushing to the hospital for what will hopefully be the start of a new life, another family is at the hospital, starting THEIR new life, without their loved one. While they’re recovering in the hospital, they’re keenly aware of the funeral that’s being planned. Nobody celebrates the death, certainly not.
Someone died. Whether or not someone benefits from that death doesn’t change the fact of the death. They died. There’s no reason to feel guilty if you or your child benefits from a death that would have happened whether or not their organs could be used. And there’s no reason to pretend that, in celebrating that a life was able to be saved (or several lives, in most cases), that we’re celebrating that someone died.