Confusion surrounds organ donation

The decision to become an organ donor is something that many college students never think about twice. For others it’s something they’ve already decided to do.

If organ donation is something college students have decided to do, the next step and the most important, say numerous organ donation counselors, is informing relatives, friends and the family physician of the decision to donate.

“Ultimately your next of kin has the final say-so as to what will happen to you if you’re ever in a place where you won’t be able to,” said Emily Kates, administrative secretary for Life Quest, an organ donation organization.

This means that even if someone indicates the desire to donate, his or her family can still say no to organ donation.

Anyone interested in organ donation can take the next step by filling out an organ donor card and having two family members sign as witnesses.

Another option is filling out a form at the Department of Motor Vehicles to have your driver license say “organ donor” on it as an indication of that choice.

Filling out a donor card or indicating organ donor on your license, however, may raise concerns for some.

Charon Williams, 20, a secondary education student from Winston-Salem, N.C., said she had been advised against becoming an organ donor.

“My mom said never put it on your license because if someone needs an organ that you have, and is a little more important than you, (doctors) may pull the plug on you to save them.”

Kates said organ donation doesn’t work that way at all. Doctors can’t do anything without the permission of the patient’s next of kin. Even if doctors were to pull the plug, there is no guarantee that the patient’s family will consent to organ donation.

Williams said besides her feelings about identifying her choice beforehand, she still has informed her family that organ donation is something she wants to do.

“That way I feel like I’ll live on at least for a little bit longer,” she said.

For next of kin, the decision to donate a loved one’s organs can be something that is very hard to make without knowing what their loved one would have wanted beforehand.

“If there was no more hope, I would let them have my child’s organs,” said Barber Cloud, a mother of two, one a FAMU student. “I would just like to know who is getting them.”

Cloud, who does have the donor sticker on her license, added, “If he’s dead he can’t use (his organs), so I would donate them and feel it was the right decision. The soul leaves the body and I know that.”

Cloud’s son, Anatole Cloud, 22, a political science student from Cairo, Ga., said, “I did it because I was trying to save money on my insurance by saying yes at the DMV. But I thought about it and told my mom that this is something I would want. That way she will honor my request if the time was to ever come.”

Other students have not yet thought of this issue.

“I just never thought about it,” said Kevin Muccular, 22, a psychology/criminal justice student from Richmond, Calif. “But if someone can use these parts when I’m gone, then God bless them.”

The California Transplant Donor Network web site offers five easy tips on how to discuss organ donation with family members.

The first thing is knowing the subject. Find out how many people are on the waiting list, why so few donate and making a decision to help.

The second tip is putting a face to the issue. The Network suggests talking with your family about someone in the local community who needs a donation or about a family that has donated organs.

Other tips include picking a comfortable environment to discuss the decision, asking family members to sign a donor card as witnesses and comparing donation to something that they already know and support.