Thursday, December 29, 2005

Would You Donate Your Face for a Transplant?

What the fuck is the big deal about this? I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty fucking sure that if you cut my face off and put it on someone else, the result is going to look absolutely nothing like me. You r face is just a piece of skin, what makes it look like you is the underlying bone structure and muscles. The only thing that I can see remaining at all similar to what you looked like before is the nose. Yet to hear these ethicists and doctors talk about it, you'd think that if I donate my face to someone, it's going to be traumatic because this person will have to constantly be explaining to people that they're not me, because they look just like me. It's ridiculous. I know on Face Off, when they traded faces, they looked like each other, but in real life, it just can't work that way.

I've already told my family, but in case there's any conflict, I'll document right here, that when I die, I want to donate anything that anyone can use. And if it were up to me, I'd make everyone do the same, regardless of consent. What the fuck are people hanging on to pieces of a corpse for? So they can burn it, or bury it? Especially if it can help someone else. It's ridiculous.

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Miranda said...

Amen, me too. What does it matter, your body is just an empty shell when you die anyway. Sheesh these people so have to get a life.

Toast said...

Face Off was just an utterly ridiculous movie.

John Howard said...

My wife and I saw it on our first date.

Toast said...

Wow, and you still got together? That must be love.

I have to say, I've been pondering this post all day long. I don't agree with your second paragraph at all. I know it might seem odd -- me being an Atheist and a materialist -- but I can't look at a dead body as some meaningless object the way you seem to. I guess the problem is that I put myself in a situation where I imagine my wife being dead and I cannot fathom someone tearing her apart and "harvesting" things from her. That body, dead, would still be the physical substrate of a being that I am utterly attached to.

Burying and burning aren't ways of "wasting" a body. They're ways of allowing survivors to cope with the grief that the death of a loved one causes.

Yes, I understand the rationalist/utilitarian view that the person is dead, so why not use them to help others. But I think the emotional/psychological needs of that dead person's loved ones should be paramount.

John Howard said...

I guess I just don't see coping with grief as beig as important as saving someone else's life. Seems incredibly selfish to me. I also think that an attachment to a body once the person is dead as irrational, and if we can get over that, we should. The ame argument you use for burying or burning it could be extended to explain having a body stuffed and putting it in your living room. And of course it would be hard to see the person you loved being put through that, but if that person needed an organ to live, wouldn't you want someone else to do it?

Toast said...

From the perspective of a disinterested third party, you're certainly right. I just don't think you're making much of an effort to put yourself in the shoes of someone who just lost a spouse or a child or someone else they were extremely close to. Yes, I suppose you could consider them "selfish" if they want that person's body treated a certain way. Grief confers a right to be selfish for a time, if that's what you need to do to heal.

Shakespeare's Sister said...

I read recently about a study done by doctors working on the face transplant technology, and, using cadavers, family members of people who had donated their bodies to medical research did not recognize their loved ones after the transplant. (They were shown pictures of the results.) A face does indeed look completely different on another skull.

I just don't think you're making much of an effort to put yourself in the shoes of someone who just lost a spouse or a child or someone else they were extremely close to.

The same could be said about putting oneself in the shoes of someone about to lose a spouse or child for lack of usable organs, which happens every day. Just a thought.

Chris Howard said...

I can see both sides of this. Objectively, a living person's need is greater than the need of a griving relative, certainly. But it's hard to dictate to someone who's just lost a loved one. I think that's why it's very important that everyone make his or her wishes known, so the grieving party doesn't have to take responsibility for the decision.

Personally, as an atheist myself, I find the thought of giving part of myself to someone else in need a comforting one. Of course, I hope that by the time I'm in a position to donate anything, it's all far too old and used-up to be any good to anyone.

Toast said...

The same could be said about putting oneself in the shoes of someone about to lose a spouse or child for lack of usable organs

Yes, it certainly could. But here's the thing: If something happens to Tracy, I am not going to fucking care about anyone else's needs. I am not going to give a flying fuck. I am not going to give a naked rat's ass. See? Yes, it's selfish and it's being a total shit. It's also perfectly understandable. Some losses you can deal with. Others, the grief is almost incomprehensible.

Understand, I don't disagree with John on principle. I think organ donation is a wonderful thing to do if you're OK with it. I just disagree with the notion that it should be compulsory, or that you're an asshole if you don't do it. Death is a fucked up thing, particularly for survivors. We should all tread lightly with those who are dealing with it.

John Howard said...

Your grief at losing your wife is going to be just a great whether or not someone else has her organs. You're right it is selfish. I see your side of it, I really do, I just don't see any reason to give that side so much weight when someone else's life is at stake. Perhaps if people didn't die on waiting lists for organs, I'd feel differently. I don't actually think I would make it compulsory if I had the power, but I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to do it.

How does being selfish in that case do you any good? And more importantly, do you know how your wife feels about it?

I agree with Chris, that it's important for everyone to make their wishes known, so the survivors don't have to make the decision.