Monday, January 14, 2008

Rationing organ transplants

Nataline Sarkisyan died last month after her health insurance company refused to pay for a liver transplant but then changed its decision after a lot of negative publicity.

According to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Nataline Sarkisyan's case raises complex questions about how we ration resources - money and, in this case, transplantable livers - and how we make medical decisions in what one ethicist called 'last-chance' situations."

There aren't enough livers available to give one to every person who needs a liver transplant. Deciding to give a liver to one person means someone else won't get one. These are undoubtedly difficult decisions to make.

Deciding whether or not to donate your organs when you die seems very simple in comparision. But only about 50% of adult Americans have registered as organ donors. About half of the livers that could be donated are buried or cremated instead. The people who blow the easy decision about donating force the difficult decisions about rationing.

Under the organ allocation rules used by the United Network for Organ Sharing, people who won't donate pay no price for their decision. They remain eligible to receive a transplant if they ever need one. It's no wonder there is such a large shortage of livers.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's very sad to hear that today money is more important than a life. Unfortunately Ms. Sarkisyan is "just another" solved case for them.
I had too a liver transplantation, but fortunately I had the luck to live in a country (Portugal) where the National Health Service pays for the operation and the meds, even for residents who aren't insured.
Instead of spending billions of dollars in wars, wouldn't it be much better for the Americans to have at least no worries to pay for a transplant?
Like Spain, which is the nÂș 1 country concerning organ donars, the law establishes that everyone is a organ donor, if not registered at a national database of non-donors. Non-donors have the same right to receive an organ and won't suffer any penalties in the case they need a transplant. But at least nobody will have to die, because a potential donor was to "lazy" to register himself as a donor.