Monday, November 03, 2003

Ohio's new kidney registry -- It's a lot like LifeSharers

The Ohio Health Department has launched a registry for people who want to donate a kidney to a relative but can't because of blood type incompatibilities.

To see how the registry is meant to work, consider the Smiths and the Millers. Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Miller both need kidneys. Mr. Smith is willing to donate a kidney to his wife, but their blood types are different so a transplant is impossible. Likewise, Mr. Miller is willing, but unable, to donate his kidney to his wife.

But if Mr. Smith and Mrs. Miller have the same blood type, and if Mr. Miller and Mrs. Smith both have the same blood type, then the couples can swap kidneys. The Ohio registry will help get pairs of couples like the Smiths and the Millers together.

This is obviously a good idea. Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Miller both get the kidney transplant they need.

This is also a lot like LifeSharers. Both programs move people up the transplant waiting list in exchange for the act of organ donation.

Mrs. Smith moved to the top of the waiting list when Mr. Miller's kidney became available in exchange for the donation of Mr. Smith's kidney. There may have been someone on the UNOS kidney waiting list who needed Mr. Smith's kidney more than Mrs. Miller did, was a better match for it than she was, or had been waiting longer than she had. But no reasonable person would insist that Mr. Smith's kidney go to anyone other than Mrs. Miller.

In LifeSharers, members move to the top of the waiting list for the organs of other members in exchange for the promise to donate when they die. The big difference between the Ohio registry and LifeSharers is that one deals with live organ donors and the other deals with donation after death.

If it makes sense to move people up the waiting list in exchange for a live donation, it also makes sense to do it for a promise to donate after death.

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