In a few minutes, I will be taking a calming drug so I can give some of my very popular blood and not faint. Yes, Dr. Bossypants was born a universal donor (meaning I’m O-negative). They love me, but I’m a needle-in-the-vein-phobe. When they begin draining blood out of me, I drop like a stone. And I get very sick when they yank me up from the howling blackness. They don’t like this outcome, nor do I. So, by introducing the magic of a vasodilator, we all win. The first time I tried the prescribed drug, and didn’t faint, I was so happy I bought a chainsaw.
Giving blood is different than giving a kidney, or bone marrow, or part of your liver. It is different than donating sperm or eggs. It is different than making sure your body can be used for pieces and parts after your death. And it is different than sharing your uterus and a lot of bodily functions so a fetus can develop into a fellow human being. But there are similarities. Each of these kind acts can give, save, or improve lives. Each should be a loving, conscious act that involves willingly extending the use of the body you were born with.
Such acts are tremendous and praiseworthy gifts. Sometimes, such acts can be quite painful or inconvenient. But they should never be mandatory. Autonomy over one’s body and body parts is foundational to human freedom and dignity. We are rightly appalled when we hear of forced use of someone’s body for slave labor, sex, or scientific research. Forcing someone to use their body to bring a pregnancy to term should be equally appalling. Yes, people die because we choose not to give in certain situations. Yes, the unwanted fetus’s chance to develop and be born is ended if the use of the woman’s body is denied. But as I’ve pointed out in an earlier blog, I suspect, if given the choice, many fetuses would not wish to be born unwanted. It is never an easy choice.
These profoundly personal decisions must entail adult reasoning and be left entirely to the individual. Even though giving a gallon of my nice O-negative blood would save more lives in the short run, it would be a very bad idea. It would end the source. Giving of our bodies to save or nurture others must be done in the context of our overall responsibilities to ourselves, our families, and our community. People, we are in dire need of wisdom and compassion. Legislating the use of someone’s body involves neither.