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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