12/20/2013 02:33 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2014

Dare to Be 100: Before I Die, Transplant Me

A few weeks ago I got involved in the discussion about Time magazine's cover story "Can Google Solve Death?" The immortalists chimed in with the usual bombast. My fuse sputters when such absurdity is afoot. Any effort to thwart the second law of thermodynamics is illegal, and any sensible person knows this.

But my invective against the claim of immortality presents the opportunity for a major qualifier. Must deaths are component deaths as they result from a defect in a single organ of the body, while the rest of the body is consigned to oblivion because of a local problem. This reality screams for address.

These circumstances come to the fore with the brilliant technical competence of the transplant surgeons and their colleagues. The notion of an organ transplant was fantasy until recently. But now the technical competence becomes a daily opportunity.

The National Organ Procurement and Transplant Center reports that in 2013, 21,659 organ transplants were performed between January and September. This number seems impressive, however, there are more than 121,000 persons on the waiting list. These naked data however hide the reality. Were a full national transplant competence in operation hundreds of thousands of lives could be salvaged. I care to be part of this salvage effort.

The previously seemingly insurmountable barriers are gradually yielding. The considerable stitchery involved in trading organs is largely a fait accompli. Adjacent to this problem is the issue of tissue compatibility. The body simply doesn't like foreign proteins in its midst, and has evolved elaborate immune responses to protect itself.

These complex relations are yielding to new science that seeks to overcome the compatibility worry. It is in this field where current science is making giant steps to allow a much broader transplantation effort.

But beyond these technical barriers are the logistical ones in which organ procurement and matching are most imperfect. Each state has its own labyrinthine regulations. These require superhuman expertise to negotiate.

It is in this area in my view that the biggest effort should proceed. We need a national effort to mature our attitudes and our energies to salvaging these thousands of still functional organs that are being buried or incinerated unnecessarily.
After all, you really can't take it with you.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
Transplant me.