Wednesday, 20 October 2010


That's what they call it, isn't it?
It's a pretty euphemism for a not-so-pretty concept.

The subject has come up a few times lately, both online and in real life. It is another of those topics that I used to think was black and white, and now realise comes in a hundred shades of grey.

In one conversation I was on the receiving end of a little bit of stick (nothing too aggressive) for not letting the hospital take any of R's organs when he died. Back in my old life, I would probably have had the same attitude; he's dead, what does it matter? It was the living person who mattered, not the shell of his body.
R agreed. He carried a donor card (as do I) and indeed took it further to believe that organ donation should be a matter of routine, and each individual should have to opt out of it, rather than opting in.

But it really wasn't that simple.

When we had That Conversation with the doctors at the hospital, R's sister-in-law brought up the topic of organ donation. The doctor very gently explained to me what could be taken.
Corneas were mentioned, and the visceral nature of my response shocked me. They absolutely couldn't have his eyes. Not that. Anything but his eyes.
I don't know why. The words spilled out before I had thought about them.

Then the doctor explained that, to harvest the organs, he would have to be taken away before he had gone. And at that moment I knew I couldn't let it happen.

I could no more have let them take him away at that point than I could have sawn off my own foot. It wasn't so much the idea of taking parts of him away - that really wasn't important to me. I didn't see his body again after I left the hospital. Just didn't want to. But it was simply impossible to conceive of letting them take him away to die on his own on an operating table while the surgeon waited with knife poised. Had he gone as the result of an accident or after an operation, it would have been very different and I am pretty sure that I would have let them do it. If they could have let him go first and then taken his body it would have been alright too. But after two and a half days sitting beside him in Intensive Care, I had to see him through to the end of his journey.

The doctor was very good about it. In fact he looked quite relieved, and told me that he wouldn't have been able to agree to it either if he were in my position. It would be nice to think that R had helped someone else after he had gone, but it just wasn't possible for me.

Life (and death) really wasn't as simple as I had fondly imagined.


  1. you made the decision that was right for you. on a personal note, i agree with you. i could not have faced doing that, and as fate would have it, it did not come up for me. i feel that R. would have agreed with your decision since you would be the one having to face the long-term memories of it.

    i pray you have peace.

  2. I had NO idea that's how it happened. Oh no no no no no. No way. No wonder you didn't.

    I couldn't have either. Not even if hell froze over. No. No. No.

    oh lord what a thought ... it really isn't as simple as they'd have us believe!

    Love and hugs

  3. I ahve felt so horribly that I didn't have matt's organs or anything donated. I didn't even think about it until several days later. Good lord, why would I? He was just here a minute ago.... But no one at the scene brought it up. Reading your post, I think now that maybe because he was gone when they found him, it was't even an option. Man. I still both feel horribly, and also thankful, in a way, that they didn't ask. I feel like I failed matt's wishes, and at the same time -

    Everything becomes gray, I think. So many things I felt strongly about, Matt felt strongly about - when the time smacks into you, it's just not the same. Maybe if there was adjustment time - I mean, like a long adjustment time. Not this here's-a-shock-now-make-a-decision-thing. Each of us has to make a decision in these moments from our own truth and our own in-that-moment experience. In my opinion/experience, all prior understanding of the world is no longer relevant in that moment. I also feel (and trying to make myself feel better too) that our loves would want, most of all, for us to follow OUR truth in that moment, rather than try to follow their wishes.

  4. Thank you everyone. I was feeling unreasonably distressed about this - I don't know why. Perhaps, as Megan says, it was something else in which I failed R after he had made his wishes so clear.
    But there isn't enough time to assimilate all the feelings at the time. Or perhaps the immediate gut reaction is the right one. Two and a quarter years later I can't see I would do anything different, so perhaps it was the right thing to do.
    Oh bugger it. Will this poxy guilt business ever go away?