News broke this weekend that former Vice President Dick Cheney had undergone a heart transplant and Twitter nearly went wild with people wondering if it were possible to create a rider of sorts where they could dictate who could and couldn’t receive their donated organs. As a relative of a donor transplant recipient, I thought this was callous and dangerous.
Organ transplants are hard to come by; about 19 people die everyday while waiting for a suitable match. As of this writing, there are currently 113,611 candidates on the waiting list (72,803 of which are actively waiting, meaning they have met all eligibility requirements and are ready for transplants) and 14,145 registered donors (all statistics from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network). Can you imagine if those 14k donors placed stipulations on who can receive their organs?
What if you had a family member who was waiting for a donor? What if it were you? And you got word that one came through except…the donor requested their organs not go to anyone who was gay. Or Black. Or Muslim. Or a woman. Or anyone who’s ever had an abortion. What if this was your last chance at regaining your life? Organ donations are, quite possibly, one of the few selfless gives we can give one another, especially knowing that most of these are given to save a complete stranger’s life. Why would you want attach such arbitrary strings to such a precious gift? Such a reckless condition helps no one.
That said, while I do not agree with the policies and actions held by Cheney, I still would not begrudge him the opportunity to have another few years with his family. Knowing what I know about the transplant process, this is not an easy time. You’re elated that a matching donor was found and you sit through several hours of surgery waiting to hear back about the results, then you wait and hope the operation was a success and the body hasn’t rejected the organ. Then you go through several months of testing and doctors’ appointments to make sure things are going well (for us, we had to live in a hotel within a couple miles of the hospital to make sure Dad had quick and easy access to the hospital for emergencies. He needed someone with him 24 hours a day!). Then you continue to hope the body won’t reject the organ for the rest of your life, downing a multitude of medicine to increase the chances of that happening. It’s tough but for another chance at life? You’re willing and able to accept the challenge.
Take a moment and consider this: strip away everything Cheney stands for and see him as a father, grandfather, husband, brother, uncle, cousin, or close friend. Now imagine his is your father, grandfather, husband, brother, uncle, cousin, or close friend and you come across online rants of people wishing he hadn’t received the transplant, how people would have actively chosen to exclude him from receiving life. How hurt would you feel?
Let’s try to remember the human side of people and not be so quick to judge someone else.