Checking No: Why I am No Longer Attached to My Organs
At age 16, getting my drivers license was the ultimate right of passage. Sitting in the DMV, now as an accomplished motorist, only one thing came between me and my freedom: the registration card. I anxiously scrawled my answers across the page. Name, check. Date of birth, easy. Address, check. Organ donor, wait a second…I wasn’t anticipating that question. At that very moment, I came face to face with my 16 year old morality, something I rarely questioned. My mind instantly flashed to my tragic demise, my body being carried by the EMT’s into the ambulance. The thought of someone harvesting my organs made feel nauseous. I didn’t want my body torn apart and my organs placed on ice. I remember looking around the room, afraid that someone would see, and checking no. My recent excitement was overcome by guilt. Had I made the wrong decision?
I never really thought about my “donor status” until as of recently. Never Let Me Go put the term “organ donor” into perspective. These children were bred specifically for their vital organs, nothing else. I began to wonder how one could rationalize this destiny. Technically the children of Ishiguro’s novel were ultimately pre-conditioned to accept their destiny. Yet, I still could not wrap my mind around the thought. The characters of this novel were so real. The emotions and hardships seemed like those of real humans, not clones.
However, there are real people who can. A recent New York Times article published as essay by Sally Satel titled A “Gift of Life-With Money Attached”. The premise? Cash for organs; people willing to donate a kidney for monetary gain. Voluntary organ donation? For money? You are kidding me right? Who knew you could live with one kidney? These questions raced through my mind. However, the more I read, the more rational the idea became. The author compares the process to surrogacy. Giving life in exchange for money. Not only is the donor compensated but they can live (hopefully) knowing they saved someone’s life. Satel writes, “The desire to do well by others — for pay — is as old as humankind. Think of firefighters, police officers, doctors and teachers. Their service is no less valuable because they are paid for it”. The concept, to some, is justifiable economically and morally. While this “exchange” is not real (as of yet), the concept made me question the sole importance of social conditioning in Never Let Me Go. Perhaps the characters were able to justify their “loss” with the notion that they were saving others. I see a common link between donations and a sense of humanity; a contorted sense of charity. After all, an organ is the ultimate gift; the gift of life. We have an emotional tie to our organs, for obvious reasons, but the notion of saving another is an overwhelming powerful concept.
While I will never sell my organs, I now look at them in a new light. I now cannot see any reason not to donate. A simple decision could save another person’s life. My licence expires in July. This time I will check yes.