Reg says that the idea of an innocent child being shot while on holiday in the country made many Italians feel ashamed—and led them to embrace the idea of organ donation as a way of making amends.
It ignited l’effetto Nicholas—The Nicholas Effect—and the couples’ decision changed the way Italians handled death.
In 1993—the year before Nicholas was killed—6.2 people per million donated an organ. By 2006, that statistic had reached 20 per million.
Five years after Nicholas’ death, Italy moved to an opt-out system in 1999. This made it so that when someone dies, it is presumed they are willingly donating their organs unless previously specified otherwise.
“The work we have done to remind them of how much good could come out of this has had this quite astonishing effect which we couldn’t possibly have foreseen. A country that was almost at the bottom for organ donation in Europe could immediately move almost to the top. No other country has tripled organ donation.”
In addition to the remarkable rise in organ donation throughout the region, Italy has named more than 120 places in Nicholas’ honor including 50 squares and streets, 27 parks and gardens, 27 schools, and 16 other monuments including: a lemon tree, a bridge and an amphitheater. The United States is also home to many memorials of Nicholas Green.
Reg says his son was incredibly kind, and even at just seven years old, he made others want to be kind as well. He believes Nicholas would have grown up to make the same decision that was made for him on that fateful day in 1994.
“If the choice was between being angry at the people who did it and wanting to help somebody else as the first priority, he would have undoubtedly chosen helping somebody out.”
As for the moment when the family met with those who had received Nicholas’ organs, Reg says nothing could have prepared them for the overwhelming experience. Through the tears and the joy of meeting six people who were given a second chance at life, Reg realized that organ donation went far beyond the six recipients.
“The parents and grandparents would have been devastated. You got the feeling there were many more people involved whose lives would have been much poorer if we hadn’t saved them.”
No parent should ever have to suffer the grief of losing a child.
“There’s a sadness that was never there before. I’m never completely happy any more,” Reg says. “Even when I’m at my happiest, I think: ‘Wouldn’t it be better if Nicholas was here?'”
But the family knows that the death of their son has led to the Nicholas Effect, which has given life to millions of others. Reg finds new hope every time he reads his son’s story somewhere, knowing that there is someone hearing it for the first time. And through his story, someone else will make the decision to say “yes” to organ donation.