Island Life by David Slack


Now roll over and beg

You think that reality TV could not possibly drop the bar any lower and then something like this happens.

You've got three people, right? And each one of them needs a kidney transplant, right? And then you've got some 37-year-old with a terminal illness. They'll be the donor.

So you'll be sitting at home and watching these dying people make their case for the one available kidney. Now here's the really good bit - YOU VOTE FOR THE ONE WHO SHOULD GET IT.

The people who make this piece of human-suffering-as-spectacle have a justification. Waiting for an organ is "just like playing the lottery", they say. "We're making people aware of this desparate situation." Who would ever have imagined a white knight on a charger could look so sleazy? They lean upon the dismal statistics for support: the waiting lists are long; people die waiting. All true, but is this any real kind of remedy?

Don't turn to the makers of Big Brother for the answer, turn to Wired.

Why not invert the present rule? Why not deem all organs available for donation, except where the deceased has registered a wish to the contrary? It would be over to you to contract out, using a designated procedure. Rather than putting the question to the bereaved, you could simply make the option available for people to make an express instruction that they don't want a donation to take place.

Most of us seem to be happy enough with the present autopsy arrangements. People in scrubs have the liberty to cut us up and prod at our no-longer-beating heart. Why not let them do something useful with it as well?

Give it a decade or three, and we may be able to make the parts in a lab, but that's hardly a comfort to the people who are on dialysis right now. They're sick, they're getting sicker, and as if that doesn't make life grim enough, bear in mind that for hours of each day they have to sit in one place watching TV.

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