Monday, January 29, 2018

The Organ Donor

I was listening to the Lite FM on my way to work a couple of days ago, and there was a segment about organ donation in Malaysia. If I heard correctly, we now have over twenty thousand people in Malaysia at the end stages of organ failure. Malaysians are therefore urged to be organ donors, and they can register at the Rotary Club, though I can't remember if there was a specific branch of the club, or at any Rotary Club in Malaysia.

Incidentally, I've had an interesting conversation on the subject of organ donation with my running buddy, a surgeon in one of the specialist medical hospitals in Kota Kinabalu during one of our many running sessions together sometime ago. He, too, was saying that Malaysians are not, statistically speaking, organ donors. I'm not sure if that was due to religious reasons, but I have to confess that I've not pledged to be an organ donor too.

Before I elaborate further about why I'm reluctant to register as an organ donor, I'm rather amused to share that  my wife had a very interesting reason why she's unwilling to be an organ donor. She had the peculiar idea that when she dies, she'd like to die intact—meaning that she wants every part of her body to be still attached together, so that in the afterlife, she'll be intact too. She somehow had the idea that if, for example, her kidneys are taken from her when she dies, she'd arrive at that other place in the afterlife—wherever that place might be—without any kidney!

As most of my readers would know, I'm not a religious person—in fact, I don't believe in any religion at all. So my reluctance to pledge to be an organ donor has nothing whatsoever to do with my religion. Neither am I concerned about whether I'm going to arrive in another place in the afterlife, if there is really such a thing, with my body still intact or otherwise. I'm thinking that when I'm already dead, whatever parts of  my body that can live on as spare parts in other people, is not really a big deal to me. When I'm dead, I'm dead—period. 

I try to keep my body healthy in the hope that it can keep functioning properly until old age. But at the same time, I'm also fully aware that nothing lasts forever; sooner or later, the expiry date will come.

With such a mindset, one would think that I'd readily sign up as an organ donor. But I won't, because once I signed up as an organ donor, my name will forever be in the "database". My details would be there in the database, and that data could be searched by some desperate people. I may be marked as a "potential or promising match" for somebody even when there is still a lot of life in me. The ugly thoughts of people waiting or hoping that I'd die soon because I have something that they need desperately. And I somehow fear that scenario, simply because I'm convinced that there are many, many rich people out there who're in desperate need of organ transplants. When people are rich and can afford to pay practically any price for an organ(s), that, to me, puts those who've already pledged as organ donors at risk.

I must admit, however, that such notions sound a lot like paranoia, especially in the context of Malaysia. But, y'know, remote as it may be, it's still a possibility to reckon with; one that I'm unwilling to carry at the back of my mind for now. Maybe when I'm 70 or 80, yes, if I can live that long, but not now.

My surgeon friend opined that it's quite unlikely that the database for the organ donors could be so easily accessible by just anybody, let alone the scenario beyond that as I've described above. But my paranoid mind is not so easily convinced.

The irony of it all was that when I reached the office that morning, having just heard about the call for Malaysians to become organ donors on the radio, I read the news about the database of over 220,000 Malaysian organ donors that had been hacked since 2016. It makes me wonder what the hackers are planning to do with the data...

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