“… people often have a strong sense of ownership when it comes to their bodies. Even tiny scraps of them.”
– Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
I have mixed feelings about becoming an organ donor. On the one hand, it’s good to know my organs would go to benefit someone else when I’m long gone; on the other, some latent, buried part of my psyche rebels at the idea of being plundered and reduced to a husk when I go. True, I won’t need my kidneys, or my liver, my corneas or my heart and lungs wherever I may end up. And it won’t matter because I’d rather be cremated than buried. But all that said, the idea still repels me somehow. And I wish it didn’t. I wish I could just be selfless and say anyone is welcome to use whichever of my innards are still feasible just like that, but the truth is I can’t. Not without really considering how I feel about it. And right now, I have very mixed feelings. I know it makes me sound like a terrible person.
I think about the fact that due to a combination of personal preference and the vagaries of age, I am probably never going to have children. Donating my organs would be the best, most selfless and cost-efficient way for me to live on in someone else. It’s a lovely thought, a beautiful one, the idea that part of me will help give another human being a new lease on life.
Maybe I just don’t want to think of myself in death as something that’s been reduced to nothing but spare parts, like a bicycle that has outlived its shelf life and is now being taken apart to fix another bicycle that might still be worth saving.
I wonder why I feel this way. What intrinsic part of me is holding back? I think a large part of it is rooted in my belief in pre-emption or jinxing things, as if saying yes to offering up my remains accelerates the day of my demise. I’m weird about death. I still don’t know how to deal with it, and this is an idea too close for comfort. I feel almost as if the action of signing a document that says I’m donating my organs will initiate a countdown clock that the universe will enforce, making me pay up before I can renege on the deal.
Nova Scotia is the first province in North America with presumed consent for organ donation. Like France and Spain, among other countries, this means unless a person opts-out, their willingness to donate their organs upon their demise is assumed. Now that consent is presumed in Nova Scotia, a province that by the numbers, already has the highest rate of organ donors, it’s only a matter of time until the concept ripples across the rest of Canada. It’s a sticky issue because ideally, giving is based on free will, not coerced through legislation. True, one can always opt-out, but not without feeling like a heel. Whatever the outcome, I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually come to terms with the issues I have about it, however petty they may seem.