Friday, September 23, 2011

Body Parts

The way some things are done back in the States make perfect sense to me, and some don’t.  One example of the former is the “right on red” traffic rule that seems to be in force in most states.  I’ve heard Finns who have driven in the US rave about this simple rule that allows a driver to turn right at an intersection, even when the light is red, provided there’s no oncoming traffic.  It’s left up to the driver to decide whether it’s safe to proceed.  I think it’s great.  It helps keep traffic flowing and seems to be safe enough. 

It’s hard to imagine this being allowed in Finland, or for that matter in most other countries I’ve driven in.  I once turned right on red in Panama City (in Panama, that is, not Florida) after seeing several other cars do it at the very same intersection.  Only, when I made my turn I got pulled over and was requested to pay the policeman an on-the-spot “fine” of forty US dollars, neatly concealed in my passport.  Apparently, he was really good at spotting me as a tourist. 
Something else in the States that I think makes perfect sense is how – at least in Georgia back in the 80s, and probably still today – drivers who want to be organ donors can have this indicated on their licenses.  As I recall, each time you renew your license at the DMV, you are asked if you want to be an organ donor, and if so, it is marked on your new license.  It’s an elegantly simple idea.  Let’s face it, a major source of donated organs is, sadly enough, traffic accidents.  And what better way to give the paramedics attending your demise a heads up that you are a donor than to have your status clearly indicated on the license they find among your personal effects.   

The Finnish donor card available on-line
and already obsolete. 
It's not done that way in Finland, so after I moved here my status as an organ donor lapsed.  This I regret, since making sure my organs can be put to good use if I come to an untimely end is something I feel strongly about.  When I finally got around to asking my wife about how I could correct this, she told me I just need to pick up a donor card from any pharmacy.  That turned out to be slightly outdated info, since nowadays the cards are (of course) available online and only need to be printed out and signed. 

But, it’s even simpler than that.  Until August of last year, the law allowed organs to be harvested even without explicit permission, confirmed by a donor card, as long as the deceased’s wishes were known.  A wife, knowing her late husband would have wanted it that way, could give the okay even if the lazy bum had never got around to signing a card. 

Such a policy might not fly in the US.  But last year Finland, to combat a serious shortage of organs for transplants, changed the law again to make organ donation even more elegantly simple.  Now organs can be harvested from any brain-dead patient, unless they were known to have explicitly been against donating their organs.  In effect, it’s an opt-out system, which is mirrored by several other European countries.  I can imagine that certain libertarian types in the US would have fits over such a policy, but here – where a reported 90% of Finns are personally in favor of donation – the switch to the new policy went largely unnoticed.  And that seems like a very Finnish attitude to me.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm an organ donor. It's tied in to the drivers license program because of the power of the AMA here and the obscene amount of money they make from medical procedures such as organ transplants.

    I like your system in Finland a bit more, mainly because I know that your average guy is not being gouged for medicine.

    Right on red. It's a good rule. I can, however, see where some folk might frown on it. Safe as you might think it is to take that right turn...well, it might not be.