Why Black People Don't Want to Donate Their Organs

TONIC | Patia Braithwaite
My Facebook friend recently became very passionate about organ donation. Though we haven't been 'real-life friends' for some time, his posts about his mother who died waiting for an organ transplant made me question my own naiveté. It has never been easier to register as a donor, but up until those daily status updates, I assumed my organs would end up wherever they were 'supposed to.' The reality is, however, there are over 100,000 people on the waiting for an organ in the United States, and a new name is added to the registry every ten minutes. Of that number, 30 percent of them are black like me. While I'd recently read that black people were reluctant to register as donors, my friend's posts forced me to face my own suspicions about the process.

"Are you an organ donor?" I asked my father over tea one morning.

"Mickey Mantle was an alcoholic, but they gave him two liver transplants," my dad said. "I'm not letting anyone take my organs."

Though my father's information is incorrect, (Mantle only had one transplant, but he was able to procure a kidney only 48 hours after diagnosis), his sentiment is clear: The medical system cannot be trusted. My dad is not a conspiracy theorist, and history is overrun with examples of black bodies exploited in the name of 'science.' From the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiments to heinous gynecological experiments that were conducted on enslaved women—most black people are raised with a strong distrust of the American healthcare system. It's hard to make a case for the altruism involved in deceased organ donation when our medical system has historically not been altruistic to black people. Continue reading
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