BUSAN, Sept. 8 (Korea Bizwire) – Organ donation in Korea is not yet a popular practice. The idea of “damaging” one’s body (even when dead) is a concept that’s still difficult to grasp in a society still deep-rooted in traditional Confucian beliefs. In fact, for every 1 million Koreans, only 49.5 donated organs, a much lower figure than in the U.S. (318), which has one of the highest rates globally.
With Organ Donation Day coming up on September 9, however, a symposium hosted by the Korea Organ Donation Society (KODS) was held in Busan Wednesday, during which KODS President Kang Chi-young strongly suggested that the current system for organ donation be changed from an opt-in to opt-out legislative system.
Under the current opt-in system, only those who have given explicit consent become organ donors, whereas under an opt-out system, everyone who has not refused is a deemed a donor. Austria is among the countries that practice a “presumed consent” policy, and as a result, over 90 percent of its citizens donate their organs.
Yet, studies have also shown that countries with opt-out systems still experience organ shortages, and that “opt-out consent may lead to an increase in deceased donation but a reduction in living donation rates” (BMC Medicine).
In Korea, the more urgent matter is the change in perspective towards organ donation, say experts.
During the symposium, President Kang emphasized the importance of treating organ donors with respect by creating establishments such as commemorative parks that can imbue the donors’ living family members with a sense pride.
“We should honor the noble love of donors that suffered unexpected brain death, and reform the current organ donation registration system for patients with terminal illnesses, who desperately long for potential donors,” said Kang during the symposium.
The symposium also called for a system that further supports the families of organ donors to include not only funeral and other medical expenses, but also counselling sessions and commemoration ceremonies, “so that donor family members can overcome their loss with dignity and respect from society.”
Organ Donation Day, or SAVE9, was established in 2008 by the Korean Organ Donor Program to promote the importance of organ donation. The choice of September 9 is based on the idea that every brain-dead patient can save up to nine lives through the donation of a heart, liver, two kidneys, two lungs, pancreas, and two corneas.
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)