(in the news ::: The Star, Opinion section, November 8th, 2011)

I AM delighted to read “Health Ministry sets sights on new drivers, students as organ donors” (The Star, Nov 5). In the United States, New Zealand and Australia, stating your willingness to pledge organs in the driving licence has long been practised.

A few countries like Spain, France, Austria, Greece, Sweden and Singapore use the opt-out system to encourage more organ donors.

Everywhere in the world, the number of people on waiting lists for organs has increased many fold. Thanks to modern medicine and transplants the lives of those with organ failures have been prolonged. Yet, the same technology brings about various social issues, including ethics of organ donation, especially living donors, as well as the trade in organs.

Researchers have unveiled options of using organs from animals for human transplants, development of stem cells that could eventually be an alternative to organ donation as well as various technologies to replace human organ systems with artificial ones.

Malaysia is a far cry from these technologies. More doctors should be trained in organ transplant, if not in research.

Non-governmental organisations should work hand in hand with the Governmental to promote organ donation awareness, and with the implementation of organ donation as an option in the driving licence, more campaigns should be carried out to increase understanding of the noble cause.

The Health Ministry should look at creative campaigns to promote organ donation awareness, instead of just organ donation talks.

The corporate sector can play a very important role to assist non-governmental organisations to strengthen measures to increase organ pledges by supporting creative campaigns as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Rarely will corporates look at serious topics like organ donation as their cause, but it will be a cause worthwhile to champion with more innovative methods of promoting it.

The ministry is looking to go to universities to get more young pledgers. It should spend more on Internet marketing for organ donation targeted at undergraduates instead of millions of ringgit every year on conventional advertisements.

Education on prevention of organ failure should also be enhanced. When we have ugly photos of diseases due to smoking printed on cigarette boxes, can we also have similar photos on liquor bottles and glasses? Better, education to protect organs should start in school.

Lastly, it will not be complete without individual support towards the cause. Very rarely will people talk about organ donation at mamak stalls or among friends and family members.

For those who are aware of organ donation but do not know where to make their pledge, start by telling your family members of your decision to donate your organs after death. Verbal consent counts when doctors confirm a patient as brain-dead.

I hope more support for organ donation will eventually bring awareness to a higher level, and eventually lead to more lives saved.

Kuala Lumpur.

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