Advocates have assembled to fight Hollywood portrayals of organ donation they say are inaccurate and end up discouraging the practice.
Good for them. Organ donation rates are pitifully low. I proudly have the box checked on my driver’s license and, while I am uncomfortable thinking about the possibility of my organs being taken from my body after death, I can’t imagine a better gift to give someone.
That’s the clincher: the organ donation multiplier allows one person to save or improve several others’ lives. Listen to the stories of organ donors’ families and receipients’ families — they’re heartbreaking.
“About 20 million Americans tuned in for an October 2005 episode of ABC’s medical drama ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in which a woman is prematurely declared brain dead. When an intern discovers she is still responsive to stimuli, a literal tug-of-war over the patient breaks out, and the transplant team chides the hospital staff for its resistance.
“Such inaccurate and negative portrayals of organ donation and transplantation are surprisingly common on TV and feed the public’s fears about the process, according to new research,” an American Medical Association story reported.
“Now, a coalition of dozens of organ procurement and transplant organizations, Donate Life Hollywood, is urging TV producers and writers to think twice before taking creative license in telling stories that could indirectly hurt the more than 96,000 patients waiting for organ transplants,” the AMA reported.
The campaign “targets a ‘top 10′ list of inaccurate storylines that recur frequently on TV,” such as the idea that Americans are killed for their organs.
“Other common lapses include misrepresenting brain death and how organs are allocated,” the AMA reported.
The goal, the AMA reported, is to meet with entertainment executives to explain the importance of accurately portraying organ donation and to offer expertise.
Now, the industry may say successful (as opposed to contested) organ donation can’t provide the inherent dramatic tension needed for TV (although few shows ever really capture this, but I’m a TV cynic). My response, as I’ve seen firsthand, is to suggest spending a night at a trauma center.
A family, inconsolable at the loss of their teenage son/daughter, is approached by a social worker, a compassionate, tough person who already has spoken to grieving, scared relatives of several accident and disease victims today. The social worker — who has one of the hospital’s tougher jobs — or an organ donation liaison — someone — asks if the family would consider organ donation. The family agrees.
The body is quickly prepped and the person’s organs removed and shipped on dry ice to a nearby hospital. A person who has been on a waiting list for months receives the person’s liver. He or she is ecstatic, having been given a reprieve on dying. He or she will be on a cocktail of immune system-repressing medications until death, but at least death is less likely to be around the corner.
The victim’s family agrees to meet the person who received the donated organs. They, and the deceased, will forever be heroes the person whose life was saved.
Sounds like real drama to me. But what do I know. I’m a writer, not a TV producer.
And, while we’re on the subject, WRITE A LIVING WILL. Just do it. Specify your preferences on life-prolonging care. It will save your family potential heartache.
Jeff Raymond, Medical Writer