An editorial and articles in recent Catholic newspapers profile a new network of workers who seek to encourage organ donations. The groups that up until now have worked separately, Catholics, Buddhists and Medical Transplantation Specialists have teamed up to change the climate of opinion in Korea toward the donation of organs.
The Confucian understanding of death and the feelings one naturally has about having a loved one's body cut up after death, all have negatively influenced the efforts to increase the number of donors. After the death of Cardinal Stephen Kim and his donation of his cornea, there has been a noticeable increase in donations, but it is still far below the level of donations in developed countries.
Spain has a very high percentage of organ donors; Korea has one of the lowest. There are also problems with determining when brain-death occurs,and procedural requirements in Korea making it more difficult than in other countries.
Many Koreans have been waiting for transplants for years, and many have died waiting. According to a government agency, some 17,000 were awaiting organ transplants in 2009 but only 261 organs from 261 brain-dead patients were available. It was this problem that prompted the three groups to form the network. For Catholics, it would be another opportunity to put into practice the culture of life issues the Church works hard to promote in society.
Publicity, the editorial stresses, will have a great deal to do with how successful the network will be. They have the know-how, now with the three groups together they hope to see many changes in how society responds to requests for organ donations. Their plans include the following:
-Set up donation centers throughout the country where people can go to make known their desire to donate.
-Educate children in grammar, middle and high school on organ donations and sharing-of-life programs.
-Select a day for organ donations throughout the country.
-Work with media to publicize the movement.
-Prepare promotional material in common to distribute.
The president of the medical specialists in his speech at the inauguration of the movement said, "What the different groups did sporadically and on their own we will try to develop and activate within the movement...And among the patients looking for organs, there will be no waiting and the flame of love will be seen and the quality of life of the terminally sick will be enhanced. This will give life to many and we will be establishing a sound medical culture for the future."