Keep Your Drunken Hands Off My Liver
Long-time readers of The Virginian-Pilot may remember a weekly humor column called He Said/She Said written by Dave Addis and me that ran on Sundays during the 1990s. A version of this particular column was published on September 17, 1995. Apologies to the late celebrities mentioned in it.
I don't know about you, Dave, but I'm having second thoughts about that organ donor card in my wallet. I was standing in line at the supermarket the other day when I noticed a headline in the National Enquirer: Tammy Wynette is waiting for a liver transplant.
Considering the source, I know this may or may not be true, but it did make me think about what in the world is happening with celebrities these days. First it was facelifts and liposuction. Now liver transplants. I see a disturbing trend here. Celebrities spend their salad years drinking away their own livers, then as their alcohol-soaked organs begin to fail they wait for a more moderate member of the hoi polloi to get in a car wreck and snatch new ones.
Personally, I don't want Tammy Wynette crooning "Stand By Your Man" with my liver.
Look, I know organ transplants are no laughing matter. But recent publicity about Mickey Mantle and Larry Hagman raises some serious questions about medical ethics.
Both of these guys admitted to years of heavy drinking. Both need new livers.
Considering the expense involved in transplanting organs, and the shortage of donors, I wonder why people who deliberately destroy their insides can get replacement parts.
It's one thing when serious disease leaves a liver or lung or kidney incapacitated.
But if someone chooses to drink heavily - despite hangovers and the DTs - I say, when their liver goes, so should they.
No offense, Marlboro Man, but same goes for smokers.
Like I said, Dave, I'm having second thoughts about my organ donor card.
It makes me want to attach an addendum: Yes, I want to donate any parts still in working order to deserving people. My corneas to someone who's lost his sight, my smoke-free lungs to someone with a degenerative lung disease, my liver to a victim of liver disease, not to someone who shared his with Jack Daniels.
As long as you're protecting your internal organs from undeserving marauders, Kerry, you might be a little more careful where you vent your spleen.
I know it's tough on you, trying to run a family and work a job, but you really need to take some time to think these things out. Philosophies developed while staring at the tabloids in the grocery line can be embarrassingly difficult to defend.
It's pretty simple to say we should deny livers to lifelong drinkers, and lung transplants to wheezing smokers. But once you take a step down the pathway to playing God, the footing gets pretty treacherous.
What do you do when a man or a woman who spent a lifetime pigging out on gravy, barbecued ribs, mayonnaise, McCheeseburgers and Doritos comes calling for a new heart? Turn 'em down, you say?
Well then, would you deny a skin graft to an amateur race-car driver burned in an accident? After all, he knew the risks. Should we withhold new corneas from a teenager who is blinded playing with fireworks? Could you look him in the face and say, "Tough luck, buddy, you were told a thousand times not to do that. Go stumble around in the dark."
If we start doling out health care that way, Kerry, it will quickly go beyond transplants. Soon I'll be arguing that I shouldn't have to pay higher health-care rates because your aging jogger's knees need repairs. People who get nice, safe exercise by gardening or strolling the beach will be grousing that ski-buffs like your husband are driving up hospital costs with their sprained and broken limbs.
You say you'd like to amend your donor card so that - heaven forfend - should your organs go on the market they must be reserved for "deserving people." Careful with those value judgments, little friend. People have different ideas of who has led a "deserving" life. Your approach would have us just a step away from organs being labeled, "for Christians only," or "these corneas reserved for a white male."
H.L. Mencken once said, "For every complex question there's a simple answer - and it's usually wrong."
You just don't find logic like that in the supermarket tabloids, Kerry.