Article by Reg Green on “Il Corriere della Sera”, Health insert, June 25 2020
The complete text in English:
Imagine opening a letter from a stranger that starts, “Your son’s heart saved my life.”
For the first time you realize what a profound difference you made when, instead of turning inward when your own child was declared brain dead, you gave life to someone you could not even visualize. Now you have living proof that instead of that heart being buried it is likely to give a more or less normal life to someone who, going to bed at night, had never known if he would wake up in the morning.
Much the same is true of all the other organs and tissue. It’s true, many families don’t want to contact the other side but for those who do the experience is usually electrifying. In the United States thousands and thousands of organ donor families have received letters and the institutions overseeing organ donation are unanimous in believing that in the great majority of cases the contact has improved not just the donor family’s health and happiness but those of the letter-writer’s too.
Saying thank you is the first step for recipients being able to deal judiciously with the feeling of guilt many of them feel in being alive only because someone else has died. But then to hear from the donor family what virtually all of them think — “Please keep healthy. We want our loved one’s gift to have the best possible result” — can demolish guilt as nothing else can.
Even more important, none of the problems opponents of change forecast — such as the psychological damage to families who don’t like each other — has ever affected more than a small number of cases.
The letters are anonymous and carefully vetted by the families’ health advisers. If the other side does not want to reply, that is the end of it. If they do reply, their letter is anonymous too. But if all goes well, as it generally does, the families in time may write freely to each other and, if both of them want to, they can decide to meet.
Some of these relationships are among the most fulfilling I have seen anywhere. That shouldn’t be a surprise. These families are connected in a way that leaps over all the differences that normally keep us apart: class, age, nationality, religious and political views. Why would we want to inhibit that?