Why not donate organs?

I think most states in the U.S. now provide a place on your driver’s license to verify that you’d be willing to donate organs, corneas, etc. in the case of a fatal crash (or other cause of death). I routinely check that box, of course, as should everyone, for what better use for a dead body than to give life or sight to others?

Yet the percentage of people who elect for donation is surprisingly small. According to NBC News:

Only about 45 percent of adults in the U.S. — nearly 109 million people — are organ donors, a figure that donation and transplant experts say seems tragically low when the public’s attention is riveted on the lack of organs for a child such as Sarah.

“We have millions of people that are concerned or outraged about this particular situation, yet 55 percent don’t sign up to donate,” said David Fleming, the president and chief executive of Donate Life America, a transplant advocacy agency that tracks U.S. donors.

The proportion of adults signed up as organ donors varies surprisingly widely across the U.S., from Montana, where 82 percent of people older than 18 are designated donors, to New York, where 20 percent are signed up. In Vermont, the figure is only 5 percent.

People typically sign up for organ donation when they acquire or renew driver’s licenses, and state motor vehicles departments keep track of the records. But it’s also possible to register online any time, driver’s license or no.

A reader mentioned these issues the other day, and it got me wondering why someone wouldn’t do this?  Why is the percentage so small? The article suggests a combination of procrastination and denial of mortality:

The biggest barrier to registering is procrastination — tempered with a little denial, said Sharon Ross, a spokeswoman for the San Diego affiliate of Donate Life.

“I think we, as a nation, as a whole, don’t think about death or want to think about death,” she said. “Many of our deaths are unexpected and sudden and we just don’t take the time to sign up.”

Well, procrastination is hardly an excuse, since it involves simply checking a box when you renew your driver’s license.  Mortality may be a factor, but you can hardly deny that you’re going to die. Everyone who makes wills acknowledges that.

My theory, which is mine, is that this reluctance is based largely on a religious fear that if they take out an organ when you die, you’ll show up in heaven without a kidney or a liver! That same fear may make people opt not for cremation but for whole-body burial. After all, who wants to approach the Heavenly Gates as a cinder?  Sophisticated Theologians™ will tell us that this is fatuous, but they don’t know better than anyone else. A recurrent subject of theological argument is in what precise form do we show up in Heaven? Disembodied souls? Young adults? (And, if so, how do we recognize our grandparents?)

I may be wrong about this, but it’s just a thought.

Regardless, I hope that most of the readers here, and all of the atheists, will agreed to donate their organs when they die.

212 Comments

  1. VoiceInTheWilderness
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    That might explain some, but I doubt it. Certainly would not have been an objection for the flavor of Christianity I used to practice.

    Denial sure sounds plausible. Perhaps ignorance, as in it isn’t talked up much? A few well-publicized anecdotes about lives saved or changed thanks to a donation might go a long way. There just doesn’t seem to be a “Red Cross” of parts donations.

  2. gbjames
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I think you’re at least partially wrong on this one. Case in point: my wife. She’s an atheist but hasn’t checked the check box. Something about squeamishness, I think. For the life of me I don’t get it.

    (OTH, she was raised Catholic, so maybe it is just indoctrination lingering in the subconscious.)

    See? I can argue it either way!

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      The reluctance of the Japanese also makes me doubt that there are specifically Christian reasons to not want to donate organs. Admittedly that reluctance is often connected to Shinto beliefs, so you could say that there are religious reasons for people not wanting to donate organs, but I suspect it is much more likely that it is simply difficult to come to terms with the fact that after you are dead, you do not exist and so your organs are no longer really yours.

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      An easy test would be the number of people who did not choose organ donation but still opt for cremation.

  3. Ben McKelway
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I just worry that my donation signoff would be abused by some unethical doctor, hospital, or government official by taking my organ(s) before I’m really dead. I see the priority line between donor and recipient as a fuzzy one.

    • Gordon
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I tend to agree with this-it’s a point made by a number of people I know who refuse to be donors but are not in any way religious. I don’t even think it’s a fear of “unethical” in any positive sense-more a fear of doctors/hospitals jumping the gun a bit. A second problem in at least some countries is family refusing permission-even of the person has signed up as a donor.

      Low donor rates area problem in most countries. My solution would be that once you reach 20 you are either in the club or out of it – an adult donor should always get priority over non-donors.

      • Trophy
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Your suggestion sounds very reasonable!

        • Doug
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

          I have also heard people say “If you are in an accident, they might take your organs before you’re dead.”
          I agree–if you aren’t willing to donate organs, you shouldn’t be eligible to receive them.

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Greetings,

      I agree that this is the main concern.

      Kindest regards,

      James

  4. Tien Song Chuan
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    This magazine article explains why.
    http://discovermagazine.com/2012/may/10-the-beating-heart-donors#.UtVjT7QSU9k

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      This might underscore why some people are reluctant, but the article has some misleading info. Brain death as a standard for ‘loss of personhood’ is a pretty good criteria, actually. It is not based on just philosophy and no biology, like the article tries to say. What other criteria is even close? A beating heart? Functioning bowels? The lack of cerebrum activity seems a good standard of death. I assume there are no legitimate cases of a person with an flatline cerebrum electroencephalogram actually coming back out of it.
      There is an additional attraction for using a brain death standard, which is that if a person is in that state but with a functioning brain stem, then their organs can remain viable for transplant for longer because they are breathing and circulating blood. This comes across as gruesome, but it is really very practical for the purpose of increasing the odds of successful transplants.

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Criteria is the plural of criterion, and another very common mistake Americans tend to make is to confuse phenomena (plural) with phenomenon (singular).

        • Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          Do doooo de-do do!

          b&

        • E.A. Blair
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          And the word “data” is plural; its singular is “datum”. The only context in which “Data” is singular is Star Trek: The Next Generation.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

            There is another context. Modern English usage where the word can be singular as well as plural. For example, the New York Times uses the word in both forms.

            Because… we are not speaking Latin here.

            • E.A. Blair
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

              You mean “modern English misusage”.

              • gbjames
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

                No, I mean real world language use, not what pedantic language historians or English teachers say is correct.

                (Note: I can be as pedantic as the next fellow. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world cares.)

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

              Coccyx is much easier to pronounce in its Latin plural: coccyges vs. coccyxes. 🙂

            • Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

              As if the New York Times was a reference… LOL! Journalists have sunk considerably, so much so that one may wonder where they got their “education”.

              • gbjames
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

                One must live in rarified circles if language use by organizations like the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, ans the Associated Press rules of language use can simply be waived away.

                Language users define the rules of language, not language pedants.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

                Yes! I say bring back the double negative! Bring it!

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

                AWGTHTGTTA? It is not pedantry, in my opinion.

                @TEOTD, correct English is 2G2B4G, but I ALOTBSOL.

                BBFN.

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

                Diana:

                Don’t you mean: don’t bring back no double negatives!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

                No, more like, I don’t want no single negatives, bring back the double negative.

                Double negative was used for emphasis like it is in slang today.

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

                And I’m apparently campaigning for double colons.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

                That would be a lot of digesting. 😀

              • Posted January 15, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

                It would, however, help to explain the priestly class….

                b&

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

                But what about those of who are slang- impaired?

                I think excusing the dub-neg as slangy emphasis borders on Humpty Dumpty territory.

                And I’m calling off the double colon campaign. The last thing I need is more digestion. I spend enough time in the loo as it is.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

                The double negative was used in Middle English for emphasis just as it is today. I think it needs to come back. Everyone should stop resisting.

                Plus, those kids on the Pink Floyd album that “don’t need no education” won’t be mocked anymore. 🙂

                I’m glad you called off the double colon campaign but maybe having two colons would mean less time on the loo!

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

                Ah, but by whom was it used when Middle English was spoken? No-goodniks? Hoodlums? If it was avoided by the snooty upper-crust, then all the arguments stand.

                I just have to have my shibboleths!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 15, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                Chaucer used it and he was middle class. The snooty upper class all spoke French back then.

              • gbjames
                Posted January 15, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

                “But what about those of who are slang- impaired?”

                They can use a dictionary.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            Serendipitously, I was just writing a sentence with the word “data” today at work & thought about how people probably don’t include a plural verb all the time.

            • Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

              A plural verb? What is that?

              • E.A. Blair
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

                Many English verbs are inflected for number, e.g., “he goes” or “she is” (singular) and “they go” or “they are” (plural). In this case, number agreement calls for a plural verb with “data”, e.g., “…the data are correct.”

                This is often seen as part of the difference between British and American English. In the former, mass nouns are treated as plural but as singular in the latter, giving statements such as, “…the committee are meeting today…” vs. “…the committee is meeting today…”.

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

                Thanks. There does seem to be an exception with regard to the word “news” – one says “the news is good” and not “the news are good”, both in English English and American English.

                On the other hand, the British don’t say “the army are” or “the audience are” or “the orchestra are”, etc., so there doesn’t seem to be a fast rule with regard to differences between the British and the American English with regard to collective nouns.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

                In the conjugation of the English verb “to be”:

                are = plural
                is = singular

                http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/subject-verb-agreement-collective-nouns.htm

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

                Ah, I see! Thanks.

          • Thanny
            Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

            In Latin, not in English. The vast majority of English speakers use “data” as a mass noun, like water.

            Most scientists try to be scrupulous about treating it as a plural (despite never using the putative singular form – it’s always “data point” or “piece of data”, and virtually never actually “datum”), but they all slip up and use singular mass noun grammar at least occasionally.

            To most native English speakers, the phrases “these data” or “how many data” are as gratingly incorrect as “these water” and “how many water”.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

              I have an Indonesian friend who told me she was “growing corns”. 🙂 I had to ask her to repeat it a couple times & then I told her to just say “corn”.

            • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

              Look at what I have unleashed! Ok, I am going to have to really watch my use of criteria/criterion in the future. :0

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 15, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                And coccyx. 😀

            • Hopalong Cassowary
              Posted January 15, 2014 at 3:57 am | Permalink

              Wm. R. Hearst (telegram text):
              “Are there any news?”
              Soon-to-be-fired correspondant:
              “Nary a new!”

        • Larry Cook
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

          How do you know he’s an American?

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

            I presumed he’s an American because Brits generally don’t make this mistake but most Americans do.

            • gbjames
              Posted January 15, 2014 at 5:59 am | Permalink

              Who says it is a misteak?

              • Posted January 16, 2014 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

                Depends on if it is well done or rare, I reckon.

      • Tien Song Chuan
        Posted January 15, 2014 at 1:13 am | Permalink

        Many animals still are considered alive when they have lost their entire brains. So why should human, which is an animal be any different? The whole issue just reflects a certain anthropological attribute of human societies, and I find it quite arbitrary. The definition is thus not scientific, but utilitarian. Admit that the person is not dead, but we need his/her organs anyway is a little more honest.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted January 15, 2014 at 2:52 am | Permalink

          A human body with a permanently nonfunctional brain is not a person in any meaningful sense; it’s an unconscious lump of meat. The person it once was is gone, never to return. That’s not an arbitrary definition; that an acceptance of the scientific fact that minds aren’t magic but are physically embodied in the brain.

          If you object to calling that “brain death” because the heart is still beating, that’s a quibble over terminology. But it’s ludicrous to claim (as Teresi does) that the notion of brain death is semantically empty and is merely a dodge to justify harvesting the organs.

          • Tien Song Chuan
            Posted January 15, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

            Just because a certain biological organism has a damaged brain or lost its brain does not mean that it has ceased to be on the species status. So how can you say that the individual has stopped being a person?
            Note that the so called unconscious meat can still do lots of things. It can get pregnant, and reproduce. So it is still a living organism and hence not dead!
            Note that having brains are just to serve the purpose of reproduction and passing on genes. There is nothing sacred about brains. Many species do not even need it.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted January 15, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

              “Person” is not a species; it’s an ethical category. Ethics is not about passing on genes; it’s about how we relate to other conscious beings. Unconscious meat is therefore by definition not a person, regardless of its capacity to reproduce.

              And if you honestly believe that having an intact, functioning brain is of no ethical consequence, then the logical conclusion to that line of argument is that it’s OK to harvest organs from healthy, conscious people, or to perform medical experiments on them without their consent. We have no qualms about doing that to brainless animals, so why should we balk at doing it to people, if brains aren’t sacred and being a conscious person carries no ethical weight?

              So your argument (and Teresi’s) is self-defeating, since it doesn’t elevate brain-dead patients to the status of persons, but rather reduces people to the status of jellyfish.

    • Trophy
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I had to stop at page 2. That was one of the most dishonest and misleading articles that I’ve read. I’m sorry but to claim that “scientists made up the definition of brain dead in a conspiracy to help the multi-million dollar organ donor industry” is really dishonest and immoral. It is using scare tactics to prever people from signing up for donating organs.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Teresi seems to find the very notion of neurologically defined death repugnant. At no point does he offer any suggestions for how the detection of brain death might be improved; in his view the only way to be sure that someone’s not going to wake up is when their body starts to rot and it’s way too late to harvest organs.

        At bottom his argument comes down to the idea that naïve folks definitions of death were good enough for our ancestors, so they ought to be good enough for us. It’s pure antiscientific FUD.

  5. E.A. Blair
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    There might be more participation in organ donation if it was an opt-out instead of an opt-in program. In countries where the default option is to be a donor, participation rates are much higher than in opt-in situations.

    It was only in the last generation that the Catholic church dropped its objection to cremation. The assertion used to be that burning the body prevented the resurrection on the last day. I guess their deity is okay with reanimating a box full of bones but is completely helpless when it comes to a pile of ashes. This is also why heretics were executed by burning and the bodies of people executed for witchcraft were burned after hanging (which was, actually, the most common form of execution for witches if they didn’t die under torture) – to deny them an eternal afterlife for offending the church.

    However, the Catholics still require that the deceased mus have, prior to death, signed a statement of belief in the resurrection, and it is preferred that the body be present prior to cremation at the funeral mass.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Well you don’t want to show up in heaven like this do you? 😀

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        What is the caption?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          The caption is “makes you want to think twice before donating body parts”. Here is a better version with the caption.

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            I love it how Jesus can materialize wings for everybody — turning them from tetrapods to hexapods, essentially. But he can’t rematerialize lost limbs.

            And that he wouldn’t do so for those who helped save lives of the living just yet again demonstrates how truly evil a goddamned motherfucking sonofabitch the asshole is.

            I mean, really? The dude can raise the dead and make the lame whole, but he’ll fuck you over if you help do likewise? Da fuq?

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

              His sociopathy runs in the family.

            • Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

              Just goes to show that not only are theists wildly out of touch with reality, but even their imaginations are stunted.

              Are they unaware of what the “omni” in “omnipotent” means?

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      “Much higher” is still not very high!

      From the Wikipedia article on the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013:

      In 2008, the UK had one of the lowest organ donation rates in Europe, at 13 donors per million of population (pmp). Spain had the world’s highest donor rate, at 35 pmp.[6] Spain’s organ donation programme uses the ‘opt-out’ system

      That’s lamentably poor… 

      /@

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Cf. the Economist article cited by Occam below (#17), these the rates Wp refers to are clearly the “deceased” rates.

        /@

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

        Wow. That is a lot of people actually intending to opt out.

        • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

          Given how Catholic Spain is, that might be evidence for Jerry’s theory.

    • Dianne Leonard
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      My dad was a (after age 70) lapsed Catholic but had a Catholic funeral mass & was cremated prior to that. The church didn’t make a fuss about it. My mom, however, lifelong Catholic, went for the casket, the whole 9 yards. Ick.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        I first read this as your dad became a lapsed Catholic after cremation. I didn’t think that could be right but I got it after I read it again. 🙂

  6. Suri
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I have checked the box but have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease since then so I don’t know if my organs are still good for donation or not.

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      they may be. I’ve seen something about allowing blood donations between folks with HIV, if not the population in general.

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      I would think it would depend on the disease and the organs to be transplanted.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 4:45 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure why an autoimmune disease would specifically disbar you from being an organ donor. As “Club” says, it would probably depend on the specifics of the disease and the recipient.
      I’m disbarred from routine blood donation because at a re-interview I noted that they’d changed the prior history questions, and I didn’t lie. Which exposed events in my life which they counted as a possibility of exposure to (n)vCJD. So I was put off the blood donors register.
      On the other hand, I’m still registered as a blood marrow donor with the Anthony Nolan Trust, and I’ve been put on alert on several occasions since. Their opinion – which I’ve questioned them on at several opportunities – is that it is up to the individual surgeons and patient in each case. With a side order of “full disclosure is essential.”

  7. Sajanas
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I think a major reason the signup is so low is because there are a lot of people that are afraid of being in the situation where the doctors look at them as a bunch of spare parts, and getting shifted to being harvested for organs rather than getting better end of life care.

    An idea I heard tossed around, that you could only be an organ transplant recipient if you were a donor as well, or get a higher place on the lists, might be a way of getting around this fear.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I think people do think that will happen.

      • SA Gould
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        Probably because I have read first-hand accounts of people with loved ones in comas being badgered *every 20 minutes* by administrators with forms who want them to “pull the plug…”

        Then there are also cases of organ donors who are in comas and may have wanted to official die, but… they were pregnant, and the state reduced them to brain-dead incubator status…

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

          I think I have something written in my will (a regular one not a living one) about pulling the plug.

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            Fat lot of good that is since your Will will only be opened and read a few days after you have died and been buried/cremated. 😀

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

              I think it was to do with who gets to decide to pull the plug on me and it has a clause that says to listen to the doctor – something like that.

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

                But since Wills are not opened and read until after a person has died, such a clause is useless, don’t you think? A living will would be more practical. 🙂

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

                They’re supposed to contact my counsel who has this request on file. The doctors would need to know who speaks for me to know who to go to.

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

                But even your counsel is not allowed to open your will while you’re still alive. This is why a living will is the way to go.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

                They are for this. It may be a living will that he did as part of the whole will package. They keep it in their vault and they are the ones to confirm who gets to pull my plug and that if doctors decide there is no hope they aren’t to keep me on life support.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted January 15, 2014 at 4:49 am | Permalink

              … and in any case, after your death, your body is the property of your next of kin, not yours. And they’re not obliged to follow your wishes.
              (Anglo-Welsh law ; may not apply in your country. For those living in countries other than the one they grew up in, you’ll have to check.)

        • Sajanas
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          Its always a tough call, particularly since science isn’t really able to give a definitive ‘brain dead’ vs ‘just a restful coma’ currently. Hopefully future advances will make that easier.

          But even then, there is always going to be a certain difficulty people have in letting go of someone, especially when parts of them can be kept alive.

  8. Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I know that Jews will even preserve amputated limbs (even fingers) so that they can be buried with them when they die. We have often seen Orthodox Jews carefully gathering with amazing minutiae every bit of human flesh and even blood after a terrorist attack for precisely that purpose.

    Here is a website about Jewish burial laws – the rules against cremation may explain the fear of Gehenna that has developed into the fear of Hell for Christians, i.e. the dumping of bodies into the burning rubbish heap in the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem:

    http://www.jewish-funeral-guide.com/tradition/cremation.htm

  9. Kristin
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    The only experience I have had with someone who refused to be an organ donor was my ex mother in law. She was absolutely convinced that if you were an organ donor, medical professionals would not do everything to save you because they would want your organs for transplant.

    • Gordon
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I recall a Monty Python skit where the doctors turned up at someone’s home to remove organs making the point that nothing on the form said you had to be dead.

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        That’s a bit from the Meaning of Liffe movie.

        • gbjames
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          And a fine bit it is, too.

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

            And in fact John Cleese actually pointed out that the donor does have to be dead before the organ can be (re)used.

            I love that he thinks of that as an opportunity to make a move on the soon-to-be widow.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 15, 2014 at 4:54 am | Permalink

          I was also watching Repo Men a couple of days ago – which had the Monty Python scene playing in the background during a scene from a Repo Men beer party.
          I’d recommend (re-)watching Monty over watching the Repo Men, any day of the week.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I remember thinking about that Python skit when I agreed to donate my organs on my health card. It inspired me to make a joke to the lady at the counter about “as long as I’m dead”.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 15, 2014 at 4:55 am | Permalink

          Rolling on the floor, helpless with mirth, was she?

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted January 15, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

            She was amused. I don’t think she watched Monty Python so my joke was new. 🙂

  10. Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    IMO, it’s the ignorant belief that someone will harvest organs before they are done with them (shades of Meaning of Life).

    I do think it’s still influenced by religious nonsense in that humans are somehow “special” and that their bodies are sacrosanct.

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      “Can we ’ave your liver, then?”

      /@

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        link above

        • Posted January 15, 2014 at 12:30 am | Permalink

          Ah, but the quotation comes later — after the “Galaxy Song”!

          /@

          • Posted January 15, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

            * But, not actually in that clip… just imagine JC saying it, just where it cuts off.

            • Posted January 15, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

              No no! It’s the last line in the scene gb linked – when TG says s/he’s “not looking to get hitched”.

              • Posted January 15, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

                It’s both! But it was the later one I had in mind.

                /@

            • Posted January 15, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

              And of course I meant TJ.

              Hadn’t had coffee yet.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 15, 2014 at 4:58 am | Permalink

        I’m tempted to change the mobile’s ring tone.
        Or, perhaps, the “Where so ever three or more are gathered together, they shall perform the parrot sketch” one? (Yes, I know it’s not canonical Python ; but it’s so Pythonesque) Imagine that going off in the middle of a business meeting and several people perform.

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      I think that popular culture has done a lot to stoke this paranoia. The number of depictions of organ transplant that have criminal or unethical elements, or are depicted as vultures, dominates, while the reality of a person injured beyond all hope of recovery giving a final gift of life, health, restored vision etc. to mulitple other suffering people, a dramatic true-to-life occurrence that happens daily is almost never depicted.

      • Posted January 15, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        excellent observation. I can easily think of pop culture instances of how organ donation is bad, but none about how great it is and how many people are helped.

  11. Barry Lyons
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Yes, I’ve always thought religious objections were at the heart of this.

    But I wonder if organ donation could be inculcated in the culture somehow such that we wouldn’t have to wait until the age when a person can drive. Seems obvious to me that most people could one day say: “Hey, if I die suddenly, whether I’m 15 or 25, and doctors are able to find ANY part of me that’s harvestable, well, harvest away!”

    Funny thing about the afterlife: embalming. What does the Catholic Church say about risen bodies filled with embalming fluid? I’m sure there’s some twisted theological “answer” (contortion) for this.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      In Canada (Ontario at least), you can indicate on your Health Card that you are a donor and indicate if there is anything you don’t want to donate (I let them take the works). Your card then says “donor” on the back.

      Since every who is eligible (most in Canada) has a health card, that covers off a wider group than just drivers.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        In BC it has been the driver’s license, but that’s about to change with the amalgamation of the two into one card.

    • Posted January 15, 2014 at 12:36 am | Permalink

      “the heart of this” — !

      /@

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 5:03 am | Permalink

      But I wonder if organ donation could be inculcated in the culture somehow such that we wouldn’t have to wait until the age when a person can drive.

      People succeed in killing themselves before they can legally drive. Actually, one of the most popular methods is being hit by people driving.
      If you ask me, it’d be a discussion to have with any child along with the fact that [insert name of rabbit, hamster, cat or family member here] isn’t coming back, ever. And after that, the young person’s wishes should be respected (which, too often, doesn’t happen).

  12. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Some ideas:-

    [1] Perhaps some people think that if the hospital sees that you’ve subscribed to be an organ donor they’ll be less diligent about preserving your life in some circumstances? [mental image of doc *kicking the tyres” & admiring the ailing patients corneas & non-smoker, non-drinker lungs & liver 🙂 ]

    [2] Films such as “coma” may have lessened peoples trust in doctors?

    [3] Cases of blood donations being sold on for profit in non-profit NHS

    [4] Stories in the UK newspapers of organs of NHS donors being sold on to service foreign private healthcare patients who pay loads-a-money & also jump the queue for these organs

    • Draken
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      I was thinking along the lines that people fear life support might be turned off more easily if you’re a donor. What with the surgeon who has a waiting patient and a suitable donor in the ICU, unwittingly putting pressure on the family who is in doubt whether to pull the plug.
      As with euthanasia, fear of a sliding slope.

    • SA Gould
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I often wondered How Dick Cheny Got His Heart? (The second one, not the first.) There’s probably an interesting story behind that one…

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Probably from an extreme-right-winger, because he didn’t have a change of heart despite his change of heart.

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Are you sure he had one to begin with?

        • Kevin
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

          He converts them black, it’s a trick of his.

  13. Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I’ve been on the organ donor register for fifteen years.

    Good grief…If the deity who created the universe can accomplish this wondrous feat, why can’t he regenerate a kidney or liver before the member of his flock enters the gate?

  14. Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on THE HORNS OF ATHEISM.

  15. davidintoronto
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    As a young atheist, I wrote an undergrad philosophy essay on the incoherence of heaven. And it took up standard questions of bodily vs. spiritual resurrection: If you lost an arm, do you get it back? If you lost your mind/memory due to injury or disease, does everything get restored? And if you die in infancy, do you stay that way for eternity or do you somehow get transformed into an adult?

    In hindsight, that essay was probably a sophomoric effort. (But then, I was a sophomore.;))

    In terms of organ donation, I suspect there is at least some inclination towards keeping all your bits and pieces for the afterlife.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 5:12 am | Permalink

      If you lost an arm, do you get it back? If you lost your mind/memory due to injury or disease, does everything get restored?

      … and if you die being spit-roast by two Cardinals (since their fondness for a “bit of the Swiss (Guard)” was being discussed recently), do you remain tattered and torn that way for all eternity? Particularly when you meet the buggers.

  16. Sastra
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    My theory, which is mine, is that this reluctance is based largely on a religious fear that if they take out an organ when you die, you’ll show up in heaven without a kidney or a liver!

    Possibly.

    Many years ago when I was “seeking” I did a few sessions of Bible Study with some Jehovah’s Witnesses who came as a small group to my home, eager to answer any questions I might have. Though I did not realize it at the time, the JWs have their own distinct brand of theology and so I was informed that after we die our resurrection would be a physical resurrection into a physical world. Our bodies, it was explained, would rise uncorrupted from our graves and then behave as bodies usually do, but in an earthly paradise without sickness or death.

    “But what happens if you’ve been cremated and scattered?”

    To my surprise this actually threw them. One of the women laughed and said “oh, I never thought of that!” But it was a problem, and clearly wasn’t a good idea. Burial was best, no doubt about it. But they had a discussion anyway and came to some conclusion consisting iirc of “God will fix it anyway.” Yes, even that wasn’t beyond His powers.

    But the damage was done. As lame as the answer was, I thought it was even lamer that this group of lifelong JWs — people who were considered expert enough in Christianity to have been sent to explain it to me in detail — had apparently not even considered a very obvious problem concerning what they themselves considered a very important aspect of their belief system. Yet they’ve been talking about this in Bible studies how long? What were they doing? How freaking insulated were these people? It felt like asking a professional astronomer why the planets aren’t pulled into the sun’s gravity and being greeted with an astonished “why, that never occurred to me, I’ll have to think hard about it, I guess.” WTF?

    I’d lost my confidence in their expertise on even their own religion.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Ah yes the JW paradise island. I was told this by JW friends when I was a kid.

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        Not Riverworld?

        /@

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          Now you’ve given me something I want to ask them when they come to the door & I don’t want to encourage them!

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 15, 2014 at 5:18 am | Permalink

            when they come to the door & I don’t want to encourage them!

            Why do I have images like this in my mind?

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think the kind of religious expertise you wrote about exists. Or, at least, is a problematic concept.

      Sure, there are some folks who can rattle off catechisms or articles of faith, but the kind of expertise that involves using your theological “knowledge” to address or solve a problem? Why should the Pope’s made-up, ad hoc rationalization be taken any more seriously than Bob’s made-up, ad hoc rationalization? And besides, the Sophisticated Theologians would only have a better *sounding* answer for your question, that is, they wouldn’t hesitate, they’d use more vocabulary. But the explanatory status of their answer would be the same as the answer you received.

      That’s the problem when what you’re talking about has nothing to do with objective, external reality. Everyone gets to be an expert – because there’s no external standard by which to show that anyone’s mistaken; and therefore nobody can be an expert.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      I think you’ll find that members of any given cult sect are the least qualified to explain the doctrines of that cult sect.

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        Ayup.

        Quashing curiosity is what religion does best.

  17. Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I have been registered as an organ donor since I turned 18

    Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 16:11:13 +0000 To: t_aid@hotmail.com

  18. MAUCH
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I am donating my whole body to science. They can harvest what few organs or tissue they can use then what ever is left over can be used to show students of anatomy what happens when aging causes ones body to fail them. I guess that means I won’t be donating my soul to the Catholic church.

  19. Occam
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Let’s look at the data.
    Organ donor rates: international comparison.

    Details for Europe suggest a discrepancy between reported readiness to donate organs and the actual donor rates. Particularly so for Northern Europe.

    • Draken
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      I was about to remark that, in my memory, 45% isn’t bad at all- seems I was right.

      Also, the high rates in the USA and Turkey as well as the Netherlands and Norway reveal no clear correlation between religiosity and readiness to donate.

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      It’s interesting that the “living” rate is so much higher in the US…

      /@

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        A number of European countries probably have laws against living donations, I reckon.

    • nicky
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      It is a pity Sri Lanka is not on that list, I would be curious to see.
      They donate a lot of corneas, often for export.
      Apparently is is good for one’s karma.

      Note that corneas can be harvested up to a few days after death, even when ‘vital organs’ are shut down.

  20. Philip.Elliott
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Indeed, organ donation is better than rotting in the ground. My organs, any and all that are usable, should go someone that needs them. If there is anything useful after that, I have filled out and filed the paperwork(obtained from what my wife refers to as “the Department of Dead Bodies”) for donation to the state medical school.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      This makes so much sense to me. Why pay for burial or cremation when you can get disposed of for free?

      I can’t remember exactly when it was, may have been when I first got a DL at 15 or 16, but the first time I saw the check box for organ donation I checked it. Seems rather selfish to me not to.

      • SA Gould
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        Check with your local states. I found that organ donation *would not* take care of the remains, and you/your estate would still have to foot the bill for cremation. (It’s been some time since I checked, but still..)

        • JohnnieCanuck
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          I did read once that because the local teaching hospital would dispose of the remains, they had too many offers and could pick and choose the best ones for teaching.

          It’s going to vary from one administration to the next but I can see where a cornea donation would not mean a free cremation.

        • darrelle
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          “If there is anything useful after that, I have filled out and filed the paperwork(obtained from what my wife refers to as “the Department of Dead Bodies”) for donation to the state medical school.”

          I was referring to donating your entire body to a lab, not merely being registered as an organ donor. But then I don’t really know how that works either. It just seemed logical that if they take your entire body for training or research . . .

          • Philip.Elliott
            Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

            If they choose to use your body, they cremate and return the ashes to the person you designate on the form. If the decide your body is unusable, your estate is responsible for everything

  21. Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    This might be a consideration. Who bears the monetary cost of organ removal? I don’t know the answer but have read that sometimes the estate of the deceased.

    • Draken
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I’ve never heard that here in Europe, and it sounds preposterous.

  22. Samuel James
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Thought you would want to know this.

    http://portland.thephoenix.com/life/146444-on-being-undead/

  23. Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I have a default question for those who refuse to consider organ/tissue donation. I ask them if they would accept organs if they needed them.

    Squirming invariably ensues.

    Mike

  24. Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    We should all work for a change in the law where organ donation is the default position – where you have to deliberately opt out of donation for whatever your stupid reason.

  25. Lynn A.(Ottawa)
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    My parents suggested that I sign the organ donation option as soon as I got a driver’s licence, which I did. They were religious in the United Church of Canada way, but sensible. My Dad’s eyes were harvested before he was cremated as that was the only useful bit by the time he died. Here in Ontario, Canada, as of 2011, one can register to be an organ doner with the government, so no worries about the important piece of paper being lost. My attitude is take what you need and burn the rest.

  26. Wrysmile
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I’m also going to donate my whole body to medical science as my dad did 2 years ago. The medical school where extremely grateful and kind in all the subsequent correspondence. They have just recently cremated his remains and sent them to us in a beautiful biodegradable container.

  27. Larry Gay
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I am officially an organ donor, but who the hell would want organs already 8 decades old?

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      80 years-old patients with a will to live longer, perhaps?

    • Lynn A.(Ottawa)
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      You never know. My Dad was 80 when he died and they took his eyes…I know they just wanted a specific part, but he would have been happy that something was deemed useful. That said, here’s hoping you continue living as long as you would like. 🙂

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      If they lasted that long they must have been well made to begin with and should be good a bit longer.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 16, 2014 at 2:43 am | Permalink

      I am personally aware of a live altruistic kidney donor who was 82 when her kidney was transplanted. Both donor and recipient are still doing well, three years on.

  28. Greg Esres
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    “you’ll show up in heaven without a kidney”

    That’s my mother’s fear.

    On a larger scale, though, it’s probably due to just the general creepiness of the idea. There are probably a lot of people who favor the concept, but can’t bring themselves to check the box.

    • Gordon
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Well probably-but why would you need one (unless there are pubs in heaven)

      • Greg Esres
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        “unless there are pubs in heaven”

        My preacher once told the congregation that any good thing that exists on earth must also exist in heaven.

  29. Andrikzen
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    The default to donate organs (at least in USA) is to opt in. If the default was to be automatically assigned an organ donor, with the option to opt out, it is suggested* that there would be more organ donors.

    *”Nudge”, RH Thaler et al.

  30. eric
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I’ve checked it and I’m still a bit squeamish. Not about religion. Not about doctors killing me for parts. About my family’s ability to have the burial they want to help them deal with my loss. Now I frankly don’t care whether I’m creamated, buried, or tossed into the ocean tied to a big rock. But I know that many of my friends and family will care, and it does stress me out a little bit that by signing, I may be bringing more pain into their lives.

    Now, IMO that possible psychological pain to my loved ones is not enough to offset the real benefits to other people of my donating my organs. Which is why I’ve checked the box. But I can imagine that at least some non-donors probably don’t donate for the same reason, just felt stronger: they are more concerned about how it might affect their family after they die, than they are about some potential benefit to unknown strangers.

    Not religion. Not python-esque organ taking. Just worried about how it might upset parent or SO or child.

    • Suri
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      I’m guessing here but I think the procedure is no different from a regular surgery and I suppose it is done in the same hospital where the person dies.

      If the person dies at home and it takes a while for someone to notice the organs might die anyway.

      I guess the burden on the family depends on how and where the person dies.

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Donated organs most often are flown in a refrigerated box to the hospital where the recipient is, which can be quite a distance away. The reason is the compatibility factor between donator and recipient.

  31. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Mortality may be a factor, but you can hardly deny that you’re going to die.

    Cryonics enthusiasts deny it, and consider it rational to do so. To their way of thinking, organ donation is irrational because they’re going to need those organs themselves when future doctors resurrect them.

    Granted, such people form a tiny minority. (There are perhaps a few hundred corpses currently in cryonic suspension.)

  32. Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Objections to organ donation never did make any sense to me. Once I’m done with my body, I’d just as soon as much of it be put to good use as possible in whatever way the physicians see fit. Organ and tissue donation, practice for surgeons-to-be, a cadaver for anatomy students to carve up, fertilizer for some plants…whatever. Or even just tossed to the carrion eaters.

    b&

    • SA Gould
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      For those seeking immortality, consider BodyWorlds Plastination. Spectacular traveling exhibit of human bodies.

      http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/body_donation.html

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been to one of their exhibits. Superbly well done.

        I keep meaning to study basic human physiology and anatomy. I’m living in an human body; might as well have something of an idea of what it is and how it works. I’ve just had too many other projects that keep getting in the way.

        Regardless, I think it’s a class that should be required of all high school and college students, the same way that the three “Rs” are.

        BodyWorlds would be an awesome curriculum source for such a class.

        b&

  33. Stephen P
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    It seems unlikely that reluctance to donate is largely religiously inspired if the lowest sign-up rates are in Vermont and New York. If it was, they would surely be further up the scale.

  34. taccado
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    This reminds me of a TED presentation by Dan Ariely titled “Are we in control of our own decisions?”. (It can be found on-line, it’s 17 minutes long.) He talked about how people naturally avoid making decisions and how this natural tendency can be used when prompting people to make decisions.

    To highlight this he used an example about organ donations and how countries that are otherwise very similar have huge differences in people’s willingness to donate organs. And Ariely claimed that the reason for this difference simply had to do with the organ donation form that people have to fill.

    Those countries with a low percentage of people willing to donate organs have the following question: “Check the box below if you want to participate in an organ donation program.” Those countries with a high participation rate have the following question: “Check the box below if you don’t want to participate in an organ donation program.” In the first case people don’t check the box (because they naturally avoid making decisions) and the result is that they don’t join the program. In the second case they again don’t check the box, but this time they do join the program.

  35. Pliny the in Between
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    There was a comment about the emotional impact of organ donation on the survivors. This manifests in at least 3 ways:

    1) People who are candidates for organ donation generally are otherwise healthy individuals (including children) have suffered a sudden, catastrophic event – a cerebral hemorrhage, massive TBI, etc. One minute they were fine – the next they are brain dead. It’s an overwhelming situation for the families.

    2) Brain death is hard for many people to fathom (just look at the young woman who was transferred to a care facility after a brain death determination. The media do a poor job with this as well, often misrepresenting coma, vegetative states, and brain death in the same breath.

    3) Closure – something hard to fathom at the time of their loss, is the very real sense of closure and the positive knowledge that the organs donated do change others lives for the better. So many times I’ve seen this be the one thing that helps families deal with the loss. At least something good resulted.

  36. Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I signed up to be an organ donor years ago. Whether I end up being a donor or not, I plan to donate my body for medical research/education. Cheap, useful, and appropriately creepy.

    And if I’m in a plane crash or other big accident, for Ceiling Cat’s sake, don’t waste resources or put anyone’s life or health at risk just to recover what’s left of my body. Who’s going to want it? Ugh.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Make sure you look into the donation thing. My parents have a friend whose dad just died. He had donated his body to a facility and the facility wanted to family to pay a huge some to have it delivered to them. I’m not sure how things got straightened out.

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        In the places we’ve lived, it’s either been free or there is a nominal fee to cover paperwork etc. But you’re right that it’s good to research it, since programs vary in their policies and their degree of organization, communication, and general competence.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          Yeah – I felt like saying, “Look do you want the body or not?” 🙂

  37. Sean
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I think this is partly true. There is stuff in revelations about the dead “rising again” (zombies!!!) and I am sure that is why you see so many burials instead of cremations in the south.

    • Sean
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      to back up my own point (which I pulled out of thin air!) here is a list by state:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_cremation_rate#United_States

      The bible belt has by far the lowest rates, and these states are poorer! Burials cost more than cremation don’t they?

      • Lynn A.(Ottawa)
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        I found it insteresting that western states have the higher rates of cremation which continues up through Canada with British Columbia having the highest rate there (77%), and Alaska is good too at 55%. Pacific vs. Atlantic influences?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

          Less Catholics out there or others who want their body intact for judgement day?

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

            Less Catholics … ? 😀

            /@

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

              I refuse those English rules.

        • Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

          I think it’s just that there are more people in the western U.S. who have moved there from somewhere else and are less likely to have close family ties, so the family burial traditions (and local funeral industry) and the family cemetery (if there is one) are a couple thousand miles away. People also live farther apart out here, so gathering a group of people together for ANYTHING is a bigger challenge. Since I moved to the southwest, of the dozen or so people that I’ve known who have died here, not one had a burial or a funeral/memorial service. All were cremated. Only two were self-described atheists.

        • Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          This is why I refuse to be cremated – a highly polluting energy waste:

          http://www.desmogblog.com/cremation-ignites-global-warming-atmospheric-conflagration

          A simple cheap casket in a cemetary for me.

  38. Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I am in my mid-80’s and I fear that my “best -before date ” is pretty-well past. I have no objection to donating organs, but I have to ask myself which of my organs would anyone in their right mind need or want ?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 16, 2014 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      See my comment at 27, above.

  39. alexandra moffat
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    My organs are probably too old for anyone. I did call a local med school in NH some years ago to offer my body when I died. Was told yes, and that the remains would be returned later to my family for burial. I said “WHAT??? I give you my body free and you want to dump what’s left for my family to pay for getting rid of???” And that was the end of that project. I suppose the school assumed that my family would want it. My a-religious family that knows how I feel about death euphemisms, religion and woo.
    Maybe the policy has changed and I should try again.

  40. JBlilie
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Since my first driving license, aged 16.

  41. Dianne Leonard
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    An alternative, and a good one, is to donate your body to a medical school. I’ve heard that, in places like Argentina, so few people donate their bodies that hundreds of medical students have to use the same body for study. This makes poorer doctors, who don’t know anatomy as well as they should. The donation process, at least at UCal San Francisco, where I will make my donation, is straightforward and simple. After your body is used they cremate it and scatter the ashes at sea, inviting family members along. I always wanted this. I’d encourage other atheists to do the same.

  42. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    As I remember it, we have been over this territory before. FWIW, I have done it. Of course.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      Nearly exactly what I was going to write.

  43. marcusa1971
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Not sure if this has already been covered, if so apologies. Organ donation should be an “opt out” as opposed to “opt in”, system. I believe they have it in Spain, and I understand that the system works well.
    On the other hand, I know that Dick Cheney recently had a heart transplant, and the thought of any of my organs prolonging the life of that moral black hole (or someone like him) sickens me.
    However, I am a registered organ donor, and will continue to be.

  44. Daniel
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    One idea I’ve come across from someone who isn’t a donor was that they felt that marking the card as ‘yes’ would create a conflict of interest on the part of medical staff in the event that they were ever on life support.

    The idea being: Why not just switch it off. He’s probably not going to live anyway, and someone over there could really use the organs.

    I don’t think that’s actually a likely scenario. But I’ve heard it from someone before. The idea has a feel of truthiness about it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if other people have this concern as well.

  45. Lianne Byram
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I have signed a consent for organ donation because I think it is the right thing to do. I must confess though, that I did so reluctantly. I have a kind of visceral, negative emotional reaction to the whole idea of organ donation. It feels like a violation of some kind. It isn’t rational, but it’s a pretty strong feeling nonetheless.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      I blame Monty Python.

      • Lianne Byram
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        I haven’t seen “The Meaning of Life” – probably just as well 🙂

        • gbjames
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          You should. It is great.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            (IMO)

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

            I agree! You’ll find yourself singing, “Every Sperm is Sacred”.

            • Lianne Byram
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

              Well there’s a selling point 😉

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, and for those who haven’t seen it or would like to see it again:

            https://archive.org/details/MontyPython-TheMeaningOfLife1983

            • E.A. Blair
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

              For those of us with cable or satellite TV, the Independent Film Channel (IFC) has been showing it a lot lately.

            • Lianne Byram
              Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

              Thanks for the link. You’ve all piqued my curiosity!

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

            I took to calling my 6-mo (at the time) daughter “Mr. Creosote”. She positively refused to let me take away the bottle until she was so full she returned its contents.

            At which point she wanted the bottle again.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      See the movie “Jesus of Montreal”. Good one about the real afterlife (organ donation) and the foibles of religion.

  46. Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Anyway, I’ve (re)registered as an organ donor in the UK.

    /@

  47. still learning
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    In my nursing career, I cared for many liver, kidney, and corneal transplant patients. The joy expressed by these people who now feel better/can see again is indescribable. Organ donation is truly a priceless gift.

  48. Vicki
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Am I really the only person who thinks it might be an advantage if the doctors might be more willing to pull the plug because I have signed up as an organ donor?

    If I’m brain-dead, I am dead, for any value of “I” that seems meaningful; the people who love me won’t benefit from extra hospital bills for keeping my corpse nourished longer.

    That’s aside from the fact that a friend of mine got several good years from a donor kidney before dying of unrelated causes.

    I have discussed this with my partners, and they agree with me on this one–not necessarily the idea that it’s an advantage that nobody is going to be offering false hope there, but with organ donation. So I not only have the appropriate box checked on the state ID, I’ve made sure that the people who’d be asked about it agree.

  49. Latverian Diplomat
    Posted January 15, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    What if the Egyptians had it right instead? It’s amusing in a macabre way to think of all these religuous folk who would have so carefully preserved their own bits, only to starve to death in the afterlife because they didn’t have the foresight to bring provisions.

  50. RAlfoeldi
    Posted January 15, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I simply don’t want to. I know it’s irrational. I know it’s selfish. I have no reason not to.

    But I still just don’t want it and that should be accepted and respected.

    I would however sacrifice my life and body for my daughter, so maybe this is an archaic, evolutionary thing.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Accepted, yes. And respected in the legal sense. But not necessarily respected in the ethical sense.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Well okay RAlfoeldi, we won’t hold you down and take your liver.

      Yet. 😀

  51. Janet Suker
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I donated a kidney to a co-worker 7 years ago, and it was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I am more aware of my health than ever, and I feel like I was able to make a difference. i was in the hospital for one night and out of work for one week with very few other side-effects. I gained a lifelong friend, it was a wonderful experience! — Janet Suker

  52. SA Gould
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I wanted to be a living donor for a friend of a friend for a kidney, until my doctor talked her out of it. Recently one of her patients donated a kidney to her husband. He did great. She however developed massive unexpected complications and nearly died. Not everything goes the way we would want.


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