Getting a child’s informed consent to donate their organs is as much fun as it sounds.
“Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.” – Janis Joplin.
What are the chances she was referring to organ donation?
In Quebec, as part of our national health care programme, each citizen is issued a Medicare Card.
On the back of the card is a space for a signature – much like the rectangular window on the back of a credit card. Your signature in this box indicates, to whoever discovers your body, your wish to be an organ donor.
My son’s card has just come up for renewal. My wife had signed and returned the form accompanying the new card, giving our consent for our son to donate his organs should the unthinkable happen. The form was returned to us with the following response from the Quebec Government:
According to the Civil Code of Quebec, when the decision to consent to organ and tissue donation is made, the
donor’s signature is required, regardless of the donor’s age. This indicates that the person making the decision knows what he/she is doing.
Our son turns eight in a few weeks. At this moment, he is sitting next to his 5-year-old sister at Montreal’s Bell
Centre watching Disney on Ice. I suppose when he gets home, the government would like me to explain organ
donation to him. Should I get right to it, or wait for him to first tell me about how they made
If you don’t mind, Dear Reader, I’d like to practice the speech on you first, before I sit down with my kid. Okay?
“Wow! It sounded like a great show! Did you have fun?… wow…great! What? Hot dogs and cotton
candy! Lucky you… I hope you’ll be hungry for supper… I think I’ll make you a bowl of spinach and oatmeal…. ha! ha! Just kidding, sweetie. Listen, sit down, Daddy has something important to discuss with you, and if I don’t tell
you about it, Daddy is in violation of provincial law. Anyway… one day, something might happen to you. Something bad. What? Well, bad enough that, like with your great-uncle, you won’t be around anymore. Yes – dead – that’s right, that’s is the right word, I didn’t want to say it…I don’t know why. Well, you know how people are buried when that happens? Well, before they do that, you can tell doctors to take things like your heart, or your liver, or your kidneys or lungs, and give them to another little boy or girl who might need them. Hmmm? Oh, because not all children are as lucky as you are sweetie; some children are very sick, or they get a really big boo-boo, or get into some kind of accident; and after that not all of them is working properly. Sometimes, when that happens, one of the ways to fix them is to put a part into them which is working just fine. One place to get those parts is from a little boy or girl who doesn’t need them anymore. Oh, I know you still need them now, this is just in case. No, honey, no one is going to take them away from you if you’re still using them; this is only for when you can’t use them anymore… Oh, I don’t know for sure sweetie, hopefully not for a long time, hopefully not until you are very old. No, Daddy hopefully won’t be around by then because Daddy will be sooooo old, that I would have had to live to be, like, two hundred! It’s okay, sweetie, don’t be sad; nothing is going to happen, everything is okay. Come, give me a hug… now obey the law, and sign here.”
My daughter‘s card comes up for
renewal in February. Should I have her sit in on this conversation, or sit her down separately in five months when she’s more able to understand?
If I do survive this conversation, I have a request for the Quebec Government which they can fulfill for me as a
small reward for putting me through this trial: If ever his heart is being passed along, maybe they can also spread around his sense of humor, and sensitivity. And share the understanding and sweetness he shows golden-agers.
How about that little bit of cynicism which is beginning to creep into conversations about Santa Claus? – I like that part of him; it challenges the parent in me.
And, wherever I am when that all happens, please send me a little piece of his heart, ok? Not the whole thing… just a little piece.
Photo— La Melodie/Flickr