Little Hanano's big gift

SINGAPORE - In life, little Hanano Oyama charmed everyone and gave joy. In death, she is playing a part to help reverse two persistent negative perceptions.

Her parents' altruistic decision to donate her kidneys and heart valves, after she died tragically in a swimming pool accident, should show those who've had occasional anti-foreigner twinges how wrong they are to stereotype foreigners as uncaring.

Singaporeans will find it hard not to let her story touch them, especially when 1½-year-old Hanano has become the youngest organ donor here. In this way, her gift of life will help counter the lingering prejudice against organ donation here.

Norimichi and Kana Oyama, Hanano's parents, are well aware of the strength of such attitudes in their native land. Japanese philosophy and culture have long shaped views on brain death and transplantation, leading to a low rate of organ procurement.

So, they are all the more courageous to take what must have been a painful step at such a difficult time for them.

In addition to admiration and respect, Singaporeans owe much gratitude to Hanano and her parents for the chance to change the two mindsets here.

Judging people on the basis of where they come from, how they look or the language they speak is clearly wrong, yet often it takes an act of goodness, as that demonstrated by Mr and Mrs Oyama, for timeless truth to sink in.

Hanano's gift highlights that common humanity - the notion that everyone is essentially the same - which ethically as well as biologically underlies the miracle of transplantation.

To the extent possible, no one should be denied a new lease on life that replacement of a failing organ offers.

Yet, far too many patients here (about 500) have been waiting far too long (up to 10 years) for a kidney or liver, because reluctance to donate means most organs end up in the grave or crematorium.

Hopefully, more will be inspired by Hanano's story to offer the biggest gift of all.


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