Saving organ donation in RP
(The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines - There is no question that organ donation, particularly from the deceased, has a great chance of improving or saving people’s lives. Yet in the Philippines, a deed that is both compassionate and sensible like organ donation has not truly gained ground.
This is due mainly to cultural apprehensions, misinformation or lack of information. As a result, the public is driven to accept certain misconceptions about organ donation as true. It is high time that these myths are dispelled, and its great advantage be brought to light.
Unease in organ donation
One main reason for doubt is the lack of information or misinformation on organ donation. Many Filipino physicians today, despite their knowledge about the benefits of organ donation, are still not completely aware about the administrative procedures involved.
Additionally, there is overall lack of support from both the government and private sectors in disseminating the proper information and facilitating the actual process.
Wrong information, or the lack of it, has led more Filipinos to doubt the benefits of donating organs. It does not help that their decisions are greatly influenced by their paradoxical beliefs and practices in spirituality, tradition, and superstition.
For old folk, for example, physical and spiritual integrity are regarded as connected to each other. Therefore, a loved one’s body must be completely intact in death for its spirit to be accepted into the next world.
On the other hand, some Filipinos simply do not like the idea of burying their dead with missing parts, for propriety’s sake.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that donating an organ would disfigure the body and hurt the donor.
The fact is, donors do not get hurt during organ procurement operations.
Others also fear that doctors will not try to save a certified organ donor who has been in an accident, and that people with a history of medical illness cannot become donors.
Even if a person has end-stage organ failure, he can still donate his corneas or other tissues like bones, vessels or skin, provided he had not previously undergone eye surgery — all without impairing the body of the donor.
There are also apprehensions regarding how donations are prioritized. Many think that the richer, more powerful or more famous patients have better chances of receiving a donated organ. In reality, recipients of donated organs are identified based on an objective scoring system that provides physicians with statistical analysis that helps determine which medical case will most likely have the best patient outcome.
For donors who are assessed and certified as brain dead, it is of utmost importance that their respective families are made to understand that a patient who is certified to be brain dead is equivalent to announcement of death. This declaration is a prerequisite to organ donation.
How to become an organ donor
Organ donation outfits such as the Medical City’s LifeShare Program are making efforts to advocate organ donation, working right alongside the Integrated Program on Organ Donation Inc. and the Human Organ and Tissue Transplant Program to give Filipinos with end-stage organ failure the opportunity to achieve a new lease on life.
LifeShare, together with other Organ Procurement Organizations, are dedicated to educating people — both laymen and medical practi tioners — about organ donation’s benefits.
“To create a community that is open-minded toward organ donation, this community should have an environment and mindset that is mature, well-informed, selfless, and altruistic,” says Dr. Rica Juarez-San Diego, head of the program and a certified international transplant procurement manager.
“Education on donation, as early as in the elementary years, will be a great help for future generations,” she adds.
To become a LifeShare donor, a person need only to apply for a LifeShare Organ Donor Card at the Medical City’s Organ Donor office, or check the donor option on the back of his driver’s license.
Through this card, a person pronounces his or her wish to donate his organs upon death in order to benefit another’s life. It is important, however, that the decision or desire to donate be made known by his family or next of kin before death.
The family or next of kin will be asked upon death to sign a consent form for donation. It is estimated that 35 percent of potential donors do not undergo the process because of family members who refuse to give consent.
Embracing organ donation
Organ donation can do a world of good, and that the mistrust surrounding it is unfounded. Ad vances in surgical techniques, organ preservation, and the development of more effective drugs for pre venting rejection have improved the success rates of all types of organ and tissue transplants.
As cited by the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network in 2007, the survival rates for transplants performed from 1997 to 2004 showed that single-organ transplants have a general success rate of 80 percent.
Kidney and pancreas transplants, in particular, have the highest five-year survival rates with 80 percent to 90 percent; liver transplants have 73 percent to 78 percent success; lung transplants about 45 percent to 52 percent; and heart transplants about 68 percent.
At the end of the day, the obscurity of organ donation in the Philippines is grossly undeserved. The country is in dire need of betterhealth options, and it cannot afford to be closed-minded toward this problem’s solutions, which include organ donation.
If there is one thing everyone, regardless of background or belief, agrees on, it is that life is precious. To save someone’s life through sheer generosity is thus a resplendent example of what it means to be human.
By embracing organ donation, and thereby proving their solidarity with the people around them, Filipinos are showing their desire for and support toward a brighter and better future for their country.