Saturday, June 20, 2009

UNOS says deceased directed donation is legal

A few weeks ago, singer Natalie Cole received a kidney transplant through directed donation. The family of a deceased donor asked that her kidney be offered to Ms. Cole. The kidney turned out to be a good match for her, and the transplant was performed.

The United Network for Organ Sharing, which runs the national organ allocation system, decided to clarify the status of directed donation after Ms. Cole's transplant sparked a lot of public questions. Here is an excerpt from UNOS' news release:

Directed donation is a request made by a donor or donor family to transplant a specific recipient. This practice is legally authorized by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) and by most state anatomical gift laws, which use the UAGA as a guide. (A few state laws are silent on directed donation but do not specifically disallow the practice.)

The policy of the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), operated by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) under federal contract, recognizes directed donation as long as the agencies involved take steps to verify the medical suitability of the organ offer for the specified recipient. The Federal regulation that guides the OPTN (the OPTN Final Rule) expressly allows directed donation to a named individual.

In recent years, at least 100 deceased donor transplants each year have occurred through directed donation. Such requests occur most frequently when the donor or donor family either are related to the recipient or know the recipient personally. Past instances of directed donation that have resulted in media coverage include a daughter-to-father heart transplant and a heart transplant from a church member to the church's pastor. In many instances, only one organ from a deceased donor is directed to a specific recipient; other organs from the donor are allocated according to OPTN policy.

Directed donation is the process that LifeSharers members use to offer their organs to other LifeSharers members. Our donation process is carefully designed to comply with federal and state laws.

Some people say LifeSharers members donate their organs to a group (which is not allowed), not to a specific recipient. These people are misinformed. The LifeSharers donation agreement reads, in part: "For each organ of my body donated, I designate as donee that LifeSharers member who is the most suitable match as defined by the criteria in use by LifeSharers at the time of my death." When organs from a LifeSharers member become available, we rely on the member's next-of-kin to call LifeSharers at 1-888-ORGAN88, get the names of members who need those organs, and direct the donation of those organs to these specific recipients.

There have been suggestions that transplant personnel might not cooperate with this process. This is highly unlikely. In fact, it is specifically their job to cooperate, as UNOS' news release explains:
The role of transplant professionals is to ensure that any donor offer is handled properly and that the safety and interests of the donor and donor family are protected. This is true in the rare instance of directed donation as well as the commonplace, non-directed allocation of organs to transplant candidates.
It's hard to imagine that transplant professionals, who are all highly trained to do everything they can to facilitate organ donations, would not help make sure that legal directed donations take place.

Please join LifeSharers if you want to donate your organs to other organ donors.

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1 comment:

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