Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kidney donation chain

The Arizona Republic highlighted America's first kidney donation chain in a July 22 story:

A chain of small miracles started in Phoenix last week.

It began when a Michigan man decided to donate one of his kidneys to a person he had never met.

His decision means a Phoenix woman will be able to watch her grandchildren grow up. But it does not stop there. Now the Phoenix woman's husband will donate one of his kidneys to a perfect stranger. That woman's best friend will then do the same. And so on and so on.

Eventually eight people, and possibly far more, will be saved because of the marriage of good will and medical technology.

This kidney chain - the first of its kind - is possible because of a new type of organ donation called a paired donation.

It happens when someone who needs a kidney has a person who is willing to donate one, but their body chemistry prevents a good match.

In a paired donation, those two people will be connected with two other people in the same situation.

Each healthy person then donates a kidney to someone who needs it.

The only unusual thing is that the donors are helping strangers directly in order to indirectly help the person they love.

Some people have been concerned that paired donations violate the National Organ Transplant Act's prohibition against donation for "valuable consideration" because they involve donation of a kidney in exchange for another kidney. President Bush is expected to soon sign legislation clarifying that these types of organ donations are legal.

The existence of paired donations provides further proof that altruism is not the only reason people donate organs. Some people say altruism should be the only reason people donate. If this attitude was turned into law it would kill people.

If you needed an organ transplant, would you care why your donor donated? Or would you just be glad they did?

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Presumed consent

In England, the Chief Medical Officer has recommended implementing an "opt-out" organ donation system. This is also known as presumed consent. Under this system, everybody is presumed to consent to the donation of their organs when they die. Anyone can fill out a form saying they don't want to donate.

If this system was implemented in the United States, the supply of organs for transplant operations would increase significantly. According to polls, about 90% of Americans support organ donation but only about 50% have bothered to register. If everybody was automatically registered, few people would bother to un-register.

Presumed consent can only be implemented in the United States through legislative action -- Congress would have to pass a law. The chances of this happening in the foreseeable future are somewhere between very slim and none, because there is wide-spread opposition to the idea of presumed consent.

This underlines the importance of the grass-roots approach of LifeSharers. You don't need Congressional action to join LifeSharers and donate your organs to other organ donors. When you donate your organs to other organ donors you create an incentive for non-donors to become donors, you make the transplant system fairer, and you increase your own chances of getting a transplant should you ever need one.

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