Sunday, November 05, 2006

Rationing life

Today's Los Angeles Times has a story about the agonizing decisions surgeons and hospitals have to make in allocating kidneys for transplant operations. These decisions can mean life or death for patients -- life for the patient who gets the kidney, and death for the one who doesn't.

Many of these decisions would be unnecessary if Americans weren't burying or cremating 10,000 transplantable kidneys every year. What can be done about this? The United Network for Organ Sharing, which sets national organ allocation rules, has the power to make a simple policy change that would eliminate most of this horrific waste of life-saving organs.

UNOS should announce that it will move registered organ donors to the front of the transplant waiting list, and that it will move those who are not registered to the back.

This announcement would cause millions of Americans to register as organ donors. Given that most people on the transplant waiting list die waiting, the vast majority of Americans would decide that registering is a good idea. Almost everyone in the United States supports organ donation, but most people haven't registered. UNOS can provide the kick in the pants that many Americans apparently need.

According to the Los Angeles Times, over the last decade the number of people waiting for kidneys nationwide has more than doubled to about 68,500 and could reach 100,000 by 2010. If UNOS put registered organ donors first on the waiting list it could save thousands of lives every year. How many more people will die needlessly before UNOS makes this simple policy change?

In the mean time, LifeSharers offers Americans the opportunity to donate their organs to other registered organ donors. Please tell your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues about LifeSharers. You could save someone's life, and the life you save could be your own or someone very dear to you.

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