Education is the key to raising number of organ donors in city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2016, 11:17pm

There has been much talk in Hong Kong about how to raise their organ donation rates.

While some correspondents have suggested [opt out] legislation is required to ensure the city has more organ donors, I think that education is crucial.

This should start with general education lessons in our primary schools.

Though most young people are willing to become organ donors , I think that many of them will be forced to abandon their decision as most of their parents, especially the much older generation, are still very conservative.

For example, most Chinese still believe that if an organ is removed from the body, you do not have that particular organ when you enter the spiritual world.

They also believe that the operative procedure on the deceased individuals will not be as respectful as on those who are alive.

According to a research paper, the Chinese had the highest number of respondents who said that their parents or elderly family members had superstitious fears about death and issues of dying.

They said that elderly family members did not allow them to sign as organ donors, as they believed that signing or agreeing to become an organ donor brought bad luck and even hastened their death. A lot of Chinese cite family disapproval as the barrier preventing them from signing on as a donor.

There is also the issue of fear of disfigurement, that many Asians worry that the deceased body will not be presentable for funeral viewing, aggravating distress to the loved ones and their families.

Thus in order to improve the organ donation rates in Hong Kong, it is important to correct the misconceptions. This can be done in the form of regular talks in public venues.

In countries such as the United States and UK, there is an organ donation awareness month, in which there are local, regional and national activities to raise awareness of the public on the importance of organ donation.

Perhaps Hong Kong could follow suit. Successful organ recipients who have their new lease of life can be invited to give talks in schools and hospitals across the city.

Of course, we do not expect to change people’s perceptions on organ donations overnight, but at least with education, hopefully the situation will improve over time.

Eunice Li Dan Yue, Singapore