Depending on your political affiliation, you may view the title of this post as ironic, disturbing or a reason to celebrate. If you check Twitter, you’ll see a plethora of tweets about the former vice president’s transplant. Many of these are jokes, and a few express disgust by people who say that they’ll remove their names from their state’s donor registry because Cheney is “heartless” or that his status or power manipulated the organ allocation system.
It’s truly unfortunate that people feel this way. The fact of the matter is there’s a grieving family somewhere who said “yes” to organ and tissue donation. When that family decided their loved one could help others through donation, they knew their loved one could help ANYONE in need.
Organ and tissue donation is a final gift from one person to another. This gift does not take wealth, status, race, gender, or any social or physical attribute into consideration other than one’s desperate need for a lifesaving transplant. Cheney waited more than 20 months for his gift of life. This is more than twice the average wait time of nine months for individuals waiting for heart transplants in Virginia (where Cheney received his transplant). This shows that Cheney’s social status had no impact on his wait time or his position on the national organ transplant waiting list. Rather, his position on the waiting list was determined by medical urgency (his level of illness), blood type, length of time waiting for a transplant, body size and location of his donor in relation to his transplant hospital. The same criteria used for everyone on the list.
This leads us to the real issue: There is a dramatic shortage of registered organ and tissue donors in the United States. A wait time of 20 months, or even nine months, is far too long for many people waiting for the gift of life. Unfortunately, many potential recipients—more than 300 of whom are waiting for hearts—are unable to survive this wait and die before a lifesaving organ becomes available. If more people simply said “yes” to donation, then fewer people like Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lacy J. Banks or Justin Sipe, a 23-year-old college student from South Carolina, would die waiting.
Before you take your name off of your state’s donor registry or spread falsehoods about organ/tissue donation, please consider that these actions will only lengthen the wait for the more than 113,000 Americans in need of lifesaving organ transplants. Please take a few moments to learn more about organ/tissue donation before rushing to judgement and taking any actions.
-Josh Muller, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Gift of Hope