Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Have a heart, be an organ donor

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are bound for Dunedin. Photo / Ross Setford
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are bound for Dunedin. Photo / Ross Setford

There are a few lucky sods around living on passive income streams. They have invested wisely and well and now they don't need to work. Their lifestyles may be modest and involve too much time watching TV, but their stress levels are low.

Organ donation can be thought of as a passive karma stream - you get the benefits of doing good, without having to do anything for it.

I use "karma" metaphorically, of course. The universe is not really on cosmic alert, waiting to reward you for letting another driver into your lane or punish you for not picking up your dog poo.

But it's a handy way to think of what organ donation involves. And I'm all for helping other people, especially if I won't know it's happening. Which is why I think we should be putting pressure on reluctant organ donors.

Billy T. James did not live to an old age with his transplanted heart, but he lived longer than he otherwise would have; and it was of no use to the donor.

And the Government, which recently announced it would spend $4 million on various measures to encourage people to give up more than the ghost when they move on, agrees.

Like early childhood education, preventive medicine and blood alcohol limits for drivers, organ donation falls into the why-are-we-even having-this-discussion category of issues.

If people thought more rationally about organ donation, and didn't need to be encouraged, that money could be used on schools or endangered species, to name a couple of cash-strapped candidates.

As far as passive do-gooding goes, it doesn't get much more laidback than sacrificing your innards when you're dead.

Many people are reluctant to register as donors because ... well, unless they believe in the resurrection of the body, they're hard put to say why. It's just one of those things that instinctively feels a bit yucky - someone cutting you open and parcelling out bits of you to strangers.

It's as ridiculous as those people who dislike the idea of using animal parts, such as pig heart valves, in common surgical procedures, but are still happy to put bits of dead animal - pig, say - in their mouths and let them pass through their digestive systems. If those people are at all squeamish, surely the latter practice is almost unthinkable.

So ingrained are the taboos around other people's organs that China thought the world would think more kindly of its human rights practices in general if it stopped recycling bits from executed prisoners. Why? At least the wretches would not have been killed totally in vain.

Get it through your head: you're dead. You won't know it's happening. Another person will have a chance to live a better life or, in some cases, to live at all - thanks to you.

And if the benefits to the community aren't enough to convince you, consider the amount of passive-aggressive fun you can have: "No, please - take my kidney. I barely use it any more. You'll be doing me a favour."

Signing up as an organ donor is something to do today, when you're in sound mind, rather than tomorrow, when you're in a coma.

Then, if the worst happens, you could save lives on the way out, and up to $4 million over 12 months.

THE GOVERNMENT should take no cheer at the news that job ads are up this week. Of course, they are. Anyone capable of work has moved to Australia.

THE ROLLING Stones and Dunedin are surely the perfect match - after all, they're both the same age.

MY MEMORY'S not what it used to be, so perhaps someone who saw it happening could remind me, because I can't remember - when did I vote for Paula Rebstock?

- Herald on Sunday

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