The pain and joy of organ donation

My family can indeed attest to the statement by the Ministry of Health that "organ donation is an emotive and sensitive issue, especially for the next of kin who are coping with the loss of their loved ones" ("Organ donations remain low despite changes to law"; May 23).

Based on my recent experience of the processes involved in the harvesting of my late sister's organs, I hope more steps can be put in place to help ease the emotional stress involved, whether it is genuine and informed consent, or presumed consent.

In the case of my late sister, who died at age 49, it was genuine consent. When she was pronounced brain-dead from an aneurysm, our 85-year-old mother consented to donate even more organs beyond what are included under the Human Organ Transplant Act.

Our mother did not want any suitable organs wasted through cremation and believed the dead would have a new body in heaven.

However, we did not anticipate the unbearably long wait that preceded organ matching and harvesting, having stood vigil by my sister's bedside for three nights.

Measures to address the emotional stress could include giving more up-to-date information during the period from the certification of death by an independent doctor to the final release of the body after organ harvesting.

Having a private space or room during the wait, to grieve the loss, would certainly help, too.

Despite the emotional stress and grief, we are happy that our loved one has blessed several recipients (and their families and friends) with her donated liver, heart, kidneys, corneas, skin, and other organs, including the pancreas for research.

The unknown recipients' thank-you letters and cards helped ease our pain.

For these very reasons, my family and I support organ donation, as well as Associate Professor Donald Low's proposal on mandated consent, if this helps to increase the number of organs available, to give many a new lease of life ("Organ donation: Consider mandated consent"; last Wednesday).

We also recommend expanded coverage and greater publicity of the scheme of medical privileges for immediate family members of organ donors, which my mother became entitled to without our prior knowledge.

This will be an added incentive for organ donations, instead of Mr Seah Yam Meng's suggestion ("Consider monetary compensation for organ donors"; last Saturday), which runs the whole ethical gamut of the buying and selling of organs.

Tang Siew Ngoh (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'The pain and joy of organ donation'. Print Edition | Subscribe