When I die, whenever that may be, however it may happen (unless I am somehow fed into a giant grinder, like the school kids from The Wall by Pink Floyd, which could happen, I suppose), there will be some *ehem* substantial amounts of meat and giblets to be done away with.
I’m not talking about whether I get burned or planted, as I believe both of those options to be wasteful and pointless, but what use my body can be, after I’m done with it.
Of course, I am on the Organ Donors Register (as I hope you are), however I am not allowed to give blood, due to having MS. Now, I know that they tend to just use your organs regardless of illness (bar HIV & CJD) or lifestyle, which obviously they do not do with blood, which I find quite odd, as blood can be cleaned (of most things), yet organs cannot be cleaned of, say, cancer. And it has been known for someone to receive a proper poorly organ, before. Is it OK to say that cancer is “proper poorly”? Meh, just did.
So, despite Multiple Sclerosis not being in any way blood borne, I am still disallowed from being a blood donor because of my illness. Even the operatives in the blood donation unit said that it made no sense but them’s the rules. We all know that blood donation is full of absurd and discriminatory rules (like the ban on homosexual men donating, yet heterosexual woman can donate – didn’t really think that one through, did they? I know far more straight women that are very lackadaisical over safe sex than gay men that have the same attitude) but anyhoo, that’s another topic for another day, and there are people more informed than I to talk about that.
I am on the Organ Donors list and it’s on my I.C.E. information, on my phone. Oh, right… In Case of Emergency. We are asked, by the emergency services, these days, to all have at least one contact in our phone named “ICE” and then the details of who the paramedics should call, should something really nasty happen to you, and you’re on your own, and you’re incapable of letting them know this information. In short, if you’re really fucked up.
So, ICE-John-Husband would be the contact name, if your husband was called John and you wanted him called, in case of an emergency. Of course, you could have ICE-Jane-Mother instead (if your mum is called Jane) or you could have both of those ICE contacts, in case the one or the other is unavailable or, even, with you and similarly in need of the emergency services.
But, as most of us have smart phones of one sort or another, these days, and if you Google “ICE apps” you’ll get this page, with a list of many, usually free, applications that will suit your phone.
I use ICE 123 for my phone which holds three contacts details for you and has (limited) space to put in your medical information. The first words on mine are “ORGAN DONOR”. I think it’s important. It has a bright red logo which I keep on the dock bit of my iPhone screen. You know, the four apps that are always at the bottom of the screen, no matter what page your on. Not that I’m planning to have a horrific accident or anything, but well… you know.
OMG, just look at that image. It couldn’t be more different from mine! It says “My health is fine”.
Organ donation seems like such a no-brainer, to me. I’m dead. Have it. If it can be used by someone else, then just do it.
Right, so we have ascertained that if they want any of my organs, they can have them. But then, I have heard that medical students are in dire need of cadavers. It appears not enough people are leaving their bodies to medical science, these days.
Sometimes, this can mean that the first time a surgeon cuts into actual human flesh could be when he’s actually operating on a living person. Like you.
So, I’m thinking I should also sign up for this. I mean, the NHS have been mightily helpful to me, over the years, and there has been invasive surgery – from a tonsillectomy, through a lumbar puncture, to a caesarian section and plenty of other, more minor stuff along the way – and each of those surgeons and their teams have had many years of intensive training, in which they will have needed a cadaver or two to learn on.
I have always agreed to allow junior doctors, or anyone training, to be present, whenever I have been asked, and have, over the years: been a case study for junior obstetricians in their exam whilst I was pregnant; had a bunch of medical students looking at my snatch after I had just given birth; had the same tests done by five different junior doctors (each one trotting off to get another to “just have a look at this!”) pre MS diagnosis; trainee neurologists or neurology nurses sitting in on the most personal of discussions with my various neurologists; oh, you know, I’m gonna stop with that list… take it from me, there’s lots.
It therefore seems to me that the natural conclusion to my life would be to let a medical school have my body, after I’m done with it, so that I can be of some use to the very type of people that have ensured it was of as much use as possible, to me, whilst I was using it.
But then I got to thinking about whether they’d want it, after I had had all my organs harvested, via the organ donation thing. I’d be covered in scars and, well, basically empty. Imagine being told to cut into an abdomen to locate and remove a kidney that someone had already had away. This is a problem.
So I looked into what you have to do to donate your body to medical science. That was one of the weirdest things I have ever Googled, that’s for sure.
I found the following information on IfIShouldDie.co.uk
How to Donate Your Body
- Fill out a consent form which can be obtained from your local medical school. Your signature should be witnessed and the document kept with your will and a copy lodged with the medical school.
- Two donation options are available – ‘non-retention’ and ‘retention’. Non-retention means that the medical school cannot keep any of your body parts and after three years, the body is cremated or returned to the family for burial. Retention means that the medical school can retain parts of your body for future use.
- You can donate your body at any age over 17. It makes no difference what age you are, although they are normally refused if there has been a post-mortem examination or any major organs (other than the cornea) have been removed.
So, there we have it. You can’t do both.
But then there’s a third thing I had thought about doing, after I die. That’s donating my brain & spinal cord to an MS tissue bank.
Apparently, they want this. I remember reading something in New Pathways, the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre‘s (most excellent) magazine.
Well, they can have it. As I say, I’ll not be using it.
HERE is a very comprehensive page from the UK Multiple Sclerosis Tissue Bank. It tells you everything they do to whip out whet they want and send the rest of you home to your nearest and dearest. What it doesn’t tell me, however, is if the remaining organs in my body can also be harvested by the people that might want them.
I phoned their helpline. I got an answerphone. As I want that information NOW, I did not leave a message. There is an email address, so I may email them my question and let you know, as and when I get an answer.
As I am writing this, I am getting more of an idea about who should get my body. If it is possible, I think I would like my brain and spinal cord to go to the MS Tissue Bank and my other organs to be donated to help someone else live, after my death.
If that is not possible, then I am still in a bit of a quandry.
Update – 20 June 2011
Just received a reply to my email about this, from the MS Tissue Bank:
You do not need to choose, there is no conflict between organ donation and brain donation. Organ donation takes priority in a theatre and then the brain and spinal cord are retrieved once the body is transferred to the mortuary.
If you would like an information pack, please let me have your postal address and I will send one out to you.
Brill! I have, of course, sent them my address!
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