Whenever there’s a call for help firefighters respond without hesitation, treading through flames, smoke and toxic fumes to save a life. This is just part of our inherent calling to serve and our mission to protect.
Becoming an organ donor is another way to extend that mission.
Although planning for our deaths and what happens afterward is not something most of us want to think about, it can help make the process easier for those we love. Being an organ donor can also offer hope to strangers, just like those we serve daily.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states on their website that eight lives can be saved through one person’s organ donation, and many other lives can be enhanced through tissue donation. For many people, being an organ donor is the ultimate act of compassion, a characteristic closely associated with firefighters.
According to Helen Irving, President and CEO for LiveOnNY, a nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO), firefighters and other first responders typically support organ donation from the public. She recently learned, however, there is a misconception that families will not receive federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) if a firefighter is an organ donor.
“Somewhere along the line somebody got the impression that spouses wouldn’t get PSOB if a firefighter was an organ donor. But this is absolutely not the case,” she said.
LiveOnNY is working diligently to help dispel this confusion. They have been speaking with fire chiefs in the New York area and working with groups, like the Local Assistance State Teams (LAST) through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to clarify concerns regarding organ donation and autopsies.
“The NFFF has confirmed through the PSOB Office that organ donation does not preclude a claimant from receiving PSOB,” said John Proels, National Coordinator for LAST.
Irving explained that a donation takes place under the same sterile conditions as any surgical procedure. A donor’s body is treated with dignity and donation does not interfere with funeral arrangements, including open casket viewing.
Additionally, all major religions support organ donation. The sanctity and respect for the body is tremendous. A moment of silence is traditionally observed before any activity occurs to honor the person who has passed and the generosity of their gift.
“Among first responders there is an enormous appreciation and respect for life. Organ donation is about life,” said Irving. “When people no longer need the organs they can save eight other lives. We would hate to see this incredible act of compassion and generosity be compromised because of a misunderstanding.”
For more information about organ donation, go to http://www.liveonny.org/, or www.organdonor.gov.
To learn more about PSOB and how LAST can help your department in the event of a line-of-duty death, go to http://www.firehero.org/resources/department-resources/programs/local-assistance-state-team/