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An Analysis of Death’s Waiting List

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In her essay “Death’s Waiting List”, the author Sally Satel raises a debate over an organ-donation issue. Whereas this topic doesn’t fall into the area of interest of every single reader, she shares her story and succeeds to involve us by providing focused thesis, flexible arguments, and balanced tone. The author places her thesis in the first paragraph and it explicitly reflects her opinion regarding the reason of the shortage of donor-organs: “I got a new one. My good fortune, alas, does not befall nearly enough people, and the federal government deserves much of the blame” (128). The author’s statement is clear and specific enough, but immediately arouses questions and requires support, which is further provided in various forms. Satel makes a right choice by introducing her own experience of being in a sharp need of a donor to replace her kidney, which makes the reader sympathize with her more.

Such a beginning adds an emotional compound to her work but hardly can be treated as a valid support of her statement. What deserves more attention and definitely provide more solid buttress for Satel’s thesis is her choice of statistical data, such as “Someone on the organ list dies every 90 minutes” (127) and “More people are waiting for livers, hearts and lungs, which mostly come from deceased donors, bringing the total to about 92,000” (128), which Satel mentioned in the first part of her essay to make the readers familiar with the problem. In the second part, Satel makes her core suggestion to resolve the issue: “If we really want to increase the supply of organs, we need to try incentives – financial and otherwise” (129). The author shows that she is not only devoted to solving the problem by offering cash for organs but thinks of providing other options, such as a guaranteed health insurance, tax breaks, deposits in retirement accounts in exchange for organs, or at least a practice of “presumed content” (129), which might appear a more ethical choice for the readers. Apart from effectively introducing the issue to us, Satel applies other persuasive techniques in her essay.

Her tone keeps balanced and mostly appeals to our common sense, even though the thesis puts blame on government for unwise donor system, which is quite a daring assertion. Also, the choice of citations from such strong and credible sources as the 1984 National Organ Transplantation Act, and data from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates the validity of information obtained through the research and thorough investigation. It plays important role in slanting readers’ opinion to the author’s point of view, but still leaves room for questions and objections. Demonstrating flexibility and open-mindedness, the author defends her viewpoint by addressing the counter argument.

She responds to the idea of commercialization of the donor market by relating the debate to the market of blood, sperm, and eggs, and questioning a difference between these organs and such as kidney or liver. Another counter argument in this essay is Satel’s response to critics’ opinion that “compensation for organs would be most attractive to the poor and hence exploit them”. The author simply does not see any harm in it, because it could both enhance donors’ quality of life and save the life of hundreds on the waitlist whose destiny depends on finding a donor – organ. Apparently, most poignant aspect of this debate is ethics; and Satel addresses it in her last paragraph. As it was mentioned by Charles B. Fruit in one of the letters of response to her essay, “the National Kidney Foundation has long maintained that financial incentives for donation would not allow the United States to maintain values as a society” (131).

Satel defends back her statement by saying “If we are to deny treatment to the suffering and dying, we need better reasons then our feelings of disgust”, which is a strong conclusion and appeals to both emotion and reason of each of the readers. As a reader, I am not left feel indifferent to the issue. Satel persuaded me that the government is responsible for providing a legislative support for transplantation and unveiled that the strongest barrier for that is ethics. By pointing out the dile mma between preserving “national values” and saving the lives of the suffering ones, the author persuades us that we need to contend for a legal incorporation of the system of incentives and let everyone decide whether it is ethical to donate or not.

Works Cited:

Satel, Sally. “Death’s Waiting List.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions: a Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument, with Readings. Barnet, Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2011. 128-130. Print. Fruit, Charles. “Letter of Response.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions: a Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument, with Readings. Barnet, Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2011. 131. Print.

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