Friday, February 16, 2007

Should age determine who gets a kidney transplant?

Should age determine who gets a kidney transplant? That's the question asked by the Chicago Tribune in a story about the United Network for Organ Sharing's proposed changes to the rules it uses to allocate kidneys recovered from deceased donors.

UNOS has proposed allocating kidneys in a way that would maximize the number of extra years lived by kidney transplant recipients.

Does it make sense to give a kidney to a 75-year-old person with a limited life expectancy when you could give it to a 35-year-old person who is likely to live a whole lot longer? Reasonable people will disagree on this question.

UNOS' proposal is controversial. But any change to UNOS' rules will be controversial, because any change will mean more transplants for some groups and fewer transplants for others.

So why not change organ allocation rules in a way that will increase the number of organs donated? Allocating fewer organs to old people won't increase the number of organ donors. Allocating fewer organs to non-donors will.

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3 comments:

Michelle Eather said...

Dave, I recently became a live donor to a 61 year old gentleman, and I have had to deal with much criticism regarding my choice to donate to a person of this age. To me the reality is this: We live in a world in which our aging population is growing, and we can therefore expect to see an increase in the need for transplants in our senior citizens. In the case of my recipient, with continued good health he should reasonably expect his kidney to outlive him.

Age restrictions on organ donation only serve to allow those within the medical profession to "play God", and further restrict those whom they determine to be "less worthy".

My recipient chose to fight for his right to self determination, and the basic right to live a long and rewarding life, free of the health restrictions which had greatly reduced his quality of life. No one should have the power to take this basic rights from him due to his age.

Michelle Eather

p.s. Please excuse the delay in my posting this comment - I have been recovering at home for the past 3 weeks from the transplant surgery.

Anonymous said...

today i found out that my grandpa, a 94 year old man is suffering from kidney failure. i would have to check if we are a match, but i would happily donate my kidney to him. do you think that he would live through the surgery?

Dave said...

anonymous: you should check with his doctor.