Give me back my kidney

I think this story highlights all that is good, and all that is bad with religion. First, an act of altruism which reminds us of our shared humanity. Then an act of divisiveness, fundamentalism, and racism.

A happy Sunday to everyone.

From LarkNews.com (via Fridge Magnet) comes a bizarre story of organ donation. Aleta Smith donated her kidney to a 20-year-old college student last year. Now she wants it back after hearing that the recipient Hannah Felks has changed religion from Christianity, to a mixture of Hindu and Pagan beliefs.

“They portrayed her as this nice Christian girl who works with kids. I saw it as a great opportunity to help a sister in the Lord.” … Smith was aghast when she heard of the conversion, and she
quickly wrote a letter asking Felks to re-convert to Christianity or return the organ, saying it was donated under false pretenses. “I feel helpless,” she says. “Part of my body, my DNA, is stuck inside a person who’s going to hell.”

I think this story highlights all that is good, and all that is bad with religion. First, we have an act of selfless life giving, inspired by the Christian belief in a shared humanity: We are all God’s children, and in acknowledging the gift of life we can celebrate our creation, together. This donation, the latest in a list of innumerable acts of charity made in the name of Christ, reminds us what a positive force religion can be.

And then, appallingly, the act is devalued. We see the divisiveness of fundamentalism, also implicit in a religion based upon the Revelation of ancient texts. It says: To have a different conception of spirituality apparently makes one an incomplete, second class person, less deserving of life. The request for the return of the kidney unveils a cold racism. The logic is selective – One could just as easily say that Aleta Smith’s Christian kidney will itself save this ‘pagan’, Asian-tea drinker Hannah Felks from hell…

Ironically, the Machiean world view of the Abrahamic religions is correct. But the sides of Light and Dark do not equate to the side of believers and non-believers. Instead, it is between inclusiveness, and divisiveness. It is the fundamentalist analysis, which judges some people as virtuous, and others as the damned-in-waiting, which is the true Devil in our midst.

The battle is not lost. We only need to remember the legacy of Ahmed Khatib, and Yoni Jenser before him, to see a glimmer of hope.

8 thoughts on “Give me back my kidney”

  1. It’s absolutely appalling. The fundamentalist analysis seems to me to be about fear and hatred, which is funny because god is meant to be about love. I think the light and dark is about love and hate, if that’s not too simplistical.

    I wonder if we would feel the same if, instead of changing religion, the recipient of that woman’s kidney had, say, turned out to be a paedophile or murderer. Would she want her kidney back then, I wonder, and what would we think of her if she did?

  2. Oh yeah! Only now do I see the titles of the other articles… That’s me jumping the gun big time. Similar to when I composed a long reply to Joseph Harker a couple of month’s back, only to notice at the last moment that his article was from 2002 and had been comprehensively debated a good four years ago! I’m also reminded of the pro-lifer who took an Onion article too seriously.

    All I can say is: Thank God its a spoof!

    We’ll leave this post up as a testimony to… something. It raises a couple of interesting points about the Internet being used as a ‘source’ for stuff, especially when fucking idiots like me misinterpret the indended meaning of the writer. We’ve been debating this elsewhere in the articles on Girl, Interrupted and Inigo Wilson.

    My point about the problems with fundamentalism remains, I think. I partially explains my credulity at the article in the first place. Do have a look at the articles on Ahmed and Yoni, which thankfully are not spoofs.

    Clarice – In the case of a paedophile, we would agonise over the issue, but I think the conclusion would have to be the same. Surely organ donation is an irreversible decision. Once you’ve given it away, you can’t ask for it back.

  3. Oh how funny! I don’t think it makes you a fucking idiot though, I think it shows how easy it is to take away a “meaning” that differs from the intended one. I think it’s slightly different error to mistake a spoof for fact as in this case, as to mistake a specific case as saying something about the general case, as in G,I. And yes, organ donation must be irreversible, and should be anonymous, even if it is not disputed that the recipient is “bad”. I did think the lack of anonymity was strange, but hey, anything’s possible in america. I also think it tells us something about what we think about American culture, that we would fall for such an article.

  4. I enjoyed this. I have heard that when people agree to donate organs after death they sometimes wish to specify various categories of people who should receive the oragan and of course this is always resisted. But recently there has been some debate in the medical press about whether people should be able to sell their organs on the basis that this would make more organs available. I feel intuitively that this would be wrong but would be interested in your views?

  5. A financial incentive would put an uneven amount of pressure onto poor people. It’s like if women were to get paid for doing sex.

    If people got paid to donate their organs, what I imagine would happen would be that it wouldn’t make much difference in the number of organs being donated from wealthy people, but it would increase the number of donations from poor people.

    On the other hand, since only healthy organs are suitable for donation, and since poor people tend to have poorer health, it depends on why there is a correlation between wealth and health. If poor people have poorer health because of choices that they make, then being able to sell their organs might motivate them to take better care to preserve their health, thereby saving the nhs money. But if poor people have poorer health because they can’t afford to make better health choices (diet, housing, exercise, healthcare etc), then any increase in donorship of acceptable organs from such a population is likely to be minimal, and, I would argue, coerced.

  6. Selling organs – sort of reminds me of the ‘Dish of the Day’ in Douglas Adam’s “The Restaurant At The End Of Universe”. This is the Hereford bull that wanted to be eaten.

    Would we start importing organs from poorer countries? Probably not, European subsidies would kick in and we’d have organ mountains for bits that were no longer in demand.

    Seriously though, I always remember the photo of a poor Indian man who had donated various organs to help feed his family. It was so wrong and so tragic.

    It’s bad enough that drugs that prolong and save life can sometimes have such huge price tags – life for the wealthy. The commercialisation of the ‘healing industry’ never rings true to me and paying individuals for organs just seems to go too far.

    Would some organs attract higher prices? Who would set the price? Organ trading seems so ugly.

    I think I’d prefer a default donor program that individuals opt out of.

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