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Say What?! Tissue Donation in the News

It’s been an interesting few days for people who follow media stories about tissue donation!

My inbox has been busy, too. I got this email from a donor mother late Saturday night, joining about a dozen others:

Brianna, I don’t know what to say when people tell me I murdered my baby he was already gone. I think my family doesn’t understand what I did becaues (sic) of the news story that was on the tv. Do you know wwhat (sic) to say to them.

Heartbreaking! I hate to see a special family like this hurting. And yes, I am here to help.
Since the Planned Parenthood/fetal tissue for research story hasn’t gone away yet, here’s a little help for the donor families and donation supporters out there.

PLEASE NOTE: the best advice I can give you is that we don’t want to seek out these tough conversations. We would rather respond kindly to misinformation than go out and find an argument. 

That said, sometimes hurtful and misinformed statements come your way. Let’s talk about how we talk about donation!

First and foremost, it’s important to #SeparateTheDebate. The debate over women’s health issues, like termination, is not the same debate as one over the legality or ethics of tissue donation. So, when I saw some inflammatory stories in my own friends’ Facebook feeds, I messaged each friend who posted with this respectful note:

Hi (friend)!

I wanted to reach out because I saw the Planned Parenthood story on your feed. You know, good people can disagree about a lot of issues. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever have questions about how tissue donation for research saves lives, and paying for the safe storage, transport, and containment of tissue donation is legal and sensible, I’m here.

We definitely don’t have to talk about Planned Parenthood, but I did want you to know that as a donor family, we know firsthand that donation for transplant AND research saves lives, and I’m happy to tell you more about how it works.

Love, Brianna

See what I did there? I separated donation from the fiery debate about Planned Parenthood. That’s an important first step!
Next, if people continue to post articles that talk about the *selling* of tissue, take careful, calm, and thoughtful action. I posted this to my own Facebook and Twitter feed.
Finally, if you would like to point people to a technical, academic source for talking about the bioethical issues around fetal tissue donation, here’s a blog post I wrote with a bioethicist colleague at the American Journal of Bioethics. We talk about some of the finer points of separating the debate.

Reading through some of the resources I have linked to, you might surmise that I have personal political beliefs that may or may not align with yours. It’s okay to disagree about these tough issues! We can all engage in respectful discourse without demeaning the compassionate gifts of millions of American families–gifts of donation, transplantation, and research.

For me, I want to protect the gift, protect the intention, and protect the outcome–for life saving transplants and medical research. I hope this installment of “Say What?!” can support you if a difficult conversation comes your way! Remember, separate the debate!

This has been an installment of the “Say What?!” series. Do you have a question about donation or transplantation that is hard to answer? Email me, and I’ll happily share my ideas! You can read the first two installments of the series here.

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