‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ Tackles UNOS and Organ Donation


The Big Picture

  • Organ donation is widely supported by Americans, but the system is flawed and needs improvement. ‘Last Week Tonight’ highlights the inefficiencies and problems with current organ donation systems in the U.S.
  • Faulty logistics, lack of proper care, and inefficient software often prevent organs from reaching those who need them, resulting in unnecessary deaths. Better organizing and matching processes are urgently needed.
  • Only 2% of deaths occur in circumstances suitable for organ donation, making it even more crucial to address the issues in the current system and maximize its potential. Americans who support organ donation should be able to make a real difference in saving lives.

Back when teen dramas were all the rage, long-running series One Tree Hill delivered a scene that will forever be in our hearts: While Dan Scott (Paul Johansson) was waiting for a heart transplant, he got to see that organ fall to the floor inside the hospital and get picked up by a dog that runs away with it. It’s great TV, and as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver proved this week, perfectly illustrates everything that’s wrong with the organ and body donation systems in the U.S.

As the episode makes it clear, organ donation is the one thing that Americans seem to agree upon: Over 90% of the U.S. population supports it, and half of them have already signed up to do it. As we all know by now, if there was a great system behind it, there wouldn’t be a Last Week Tonight episode about it. So while John Oliver underscores that organ donations literally saves lives, the donating system could make sure it saved lots more.

This happens because of a series of factors. The first one is also the most problematic: U.S. laws aren’t clear when it comes to body donations “to science,” which means that your skeleton could end up as a piece of museum art or your skull could be sold online to whoever wants to buy it – not exactly the things that a person thinks would happen to their remains.

Image via HBO

‘Last Week Tonight’ Pledges For Better Organ Donating Logistics

As surprising as it is, this isn’t even the worst thing about donation. Last Week Tonight showed that while an average of 17 people die every day waiting for organ donations, more often than not those organs aren’t taken all the way to those who need them because of faulty logistics, lack of proper care with the organ being transported and inefficient softwares that fail to match donated organs with their proper and most urgent recipients.

While this happens because organ transplantation is a relatively new thing – it’s only one Oprah old – UNOS and other Organ Procurement Organizations (O.P.O.s) that administer it take way too long to fix their issues, which shouldn’t be the case when a mistake literally means the difference between life and death. And solving this is extremely urgent when you consider that only 2% of deaths happen in circumstances conductive to donations.

The pledge that Last Week Tonight makes is pretty simple. O.P.O.s don’t need to be like Oklahoma, which clearly doesn’t understand much about what organ donations should look and feel like (see above). When so many Americans are supportive of a system that can give people a chance at living, that system should be used to its fullest potential at the very least. If you’re interested in organ donation, you should absolutely check out organdonor.org.

Watch on Max

You can watch the full main segment of the episode below:


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