The following is fiction. Please don’t be offended, I’ve taken liberties with conventions and beliefs. This is an exercise in outrageous extrapolation.
The year: 2100
Prof Hock Ai snapped off his surgical gloves and stomped out of the operating theatre. Damn, they were getting younger and younger. That last patient was just 53 years old, still attractive and the mother of a teenager. Hock Ai was the lead surgeon for a team of specialist harvesters, and his team had just removed the patient’s liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, gut, skin, corneas, face and thigh bones for transplant into a dozen or so other patients who needed those organs and body parts.
Hock Ai put his palms up to his eyes and rubbed. To think that only yesterday, his patient had been full of vitality and perfectly healthy. Well, almost. She had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and tests showed she had some 5 years more to go before becoming completely dependant on others for care. Most patients put it off till later, but some feared the disease so much they presented themselves to the harvesters very early.
How did it come to this? Hock Ai pondered. The fact was everybody dies, and death occurs when vital organs fail. Unfortunately, the vital organs did not deteriorate in unison. There was a mismatch – on the one hand, a sector of contributing members of society with failing organs, and another sector with healthy organs who were dependent because of failing brains. It was only a matter of time because altruism crept into the Euthanasia Act and Multi-Organ Harvesting became a new surgical subspecialty.
Hock Ai looked up at the clock – the short hand pointed at 4 and the long hand at 2. He tried to remember… had he had breakfast?
Five facts about Organ Donation today (2012):
1. Posthumous organ donation (of kidneys, liver, heart and cornea) is mandated by law in Singapore unless you have opted out under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA):
“All Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents 21 years old and above*, and are of sound mind, are included under HOTA. Those who choose to remain under HOTA will have a chance to help others, in addition to a higher priority in receiving a deceased donor organ if they need such a transplant in the future.”
2. It was long suspected that China harvested organs from executed prisoners. This fact has just been acknowledged in an announcement by health officials that the practice would be phased out.
3. A notorious Singapore prisoner, “one-eyed dragon”, sentenced to hang, is strongly believed to have made a directed posthumous donation requesting that one of his kidney’s be given to a businessman. (See the newslink here). That businessman had been under investigation for allegedly trying to purchase an Indonesian kidney.
4. Couple of movies about Organ Donation, altruistic or not:
“Never let me go” – based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s book
“Seven Pounds” – starring Will Smith.
5. There is no such thing as a brain transplant, so you cannot donate a brain to an Alzheimer’s patient.