Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

A pound of flesh?

Poll: Should the sale of kidneys be legal in the U.S.?

I’ve been doing some reading about vending kidneys for transplantation, one of the more thorny ethical issues facing kidney transplant patients and their medical teams.

I’ve been pricked by those thorns and I’m not sure where I stand on the issue.  Now that I’m an ESRD patient, things have gotten much grayer.

Does a person own her own body? Yes. I have to answer that since I believe in the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Would vending kidneys exploit the poor? Undoubtedly. Who would sell an organ if they didn’t have to?

Would vending make more kidneys available for transplantation? I’m not so sure, after reading several articles on the situation. On surface, it would seem it would, but how would it affect the number of live donors? Would they be less willing to donate if they knew kidneys were available for purchase? And would it affect a family’s decision on cadaver donation? Again, they might be less willing to agree to organ donation if they knew kidneys were available to purchase.

Would vending kidneys make them more universally available to needy patients? Somehow I doubt it, especially if there was no coverage from insurance or government programs (Medicare). It would certainly be difficult for me to amass $90,000 (the current estimates of how much a kidney might cost) even if my insurance would pay for the surgery and aftercare.

Who would determine if the vendor is healthy enough to sell a kidney? I assume there would be rigorous pre-testing, I know I would insist on that if I were going to buy an organ.

Even with pre-testing, there’s always the chance of hidden problems being exposed during surgery, would the buyer have to assume that risk and pay even if the kidney proved unusable? 

Are there increased health risks to the vendor post-removal? Studies done in India and China would indicate so, according to the articles I’ve read.

If problems did occur for the vendor post-surgery, would the buyer have any obligation to help with medical expenses?  This is a question I think would be true in live donation of any kind.

Those are just a few of the questions.

In conclusion, I have no conclusion of my own.  Work needs to be done to provide more live donors for kidney transplantation: A waiting list of 74,000 is pretty discouraging for someone awaiting transplantation, but miracles happen every day.

I think, at the moment having only just begun the transplant journey, I agree with the conclusion of this article that appeared in 2006 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

” Kidney vending might seem like a tempting solution to the organ shortage, but like the Trojan horse of old, once we permit it within our gates, we may find that it brings destruction and not relief. We believe strongly that a bright future for organ transplantation requires that we foster altruism and not stifle it.”

— Gabriel M. Danovitch, and Alan B. Leichtman

Update: I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to add a poll to this post. Maybe you’d be so kind as to add a comment to answer the question: Should the sale of kidneys be legal in the U.S.?
Meanwhile, I’ll try to figure out how to add a poll to the blog when and if I want to.

The best I could do was a link to the polling site. 😦

Poll: Should the sale of kidneys be legal in the U.S.?

Sunday stats

Caloric intake: 1452

Additional activity: 577

Blood Sugar: 97

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December 17, 2007 - Posted by | diabetes, dialysis, health, kidney, renal diet, renal recipes, transplant, weightloss

4 Comments »

  1. Over half of the 98,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage — give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at http://www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

    Comment by daveundis | December 18, 2007 | Reply

  2. I think that the way to increase the number of donors is to educate (it helps that I’m a teacher I suppose). I actually wrote KCRG/Gazette letting them know about my dad and me before the surgery and suggested that they do a story or two about all this…but I never heard back! I think it would be nice to do the whole thing from the donor’s perspective. Maybe, just maybe, if people see how it’s just a few weeks out of your “normal” life, and the rewards FAR out way the inconvenience, more will consider becoming a living donor!

    I’ve been thinking about you! Hope all is well. YOU CAN DO IT (the weight loss)!!

    Comment by orange gearle | December 18, 2007 | Reply

  3. Thanks, Orange … I’ve been thinking about you, too, and checking your blog to see if there’s a further update on the surgery. Hope you and your dad are both doing fantastic.

    David: What about those of us who would gladly be organ donors but have medical conditions (like diabetes) that preclude donating?

    Comment by iowakitkat | December 18, 2007 | Reply

  4. You know, I’ve thought about this and thought very hard. On one hand it really ticks me off that the only people who profit from transplants are the hospitals, doctors, surgeons, transport companies and drug companies. The individual and the families do not profit from the donation.

    I believe that if it is your body part then you should profit from it. Currently the law is stacked against the original owner. In much the same way that a doctor or hospital can take fluids from your body and patent your fluids and even your dna BUT you the original owner can’t.

    On the other hand, is selling parts really a good idea? Who knows what disease people are carrying around with them. I wouldn’t be so afraid of rejection as much as catching something from someone else. And, when we can’t even keep our blood supplies free from contamination how are we going to ensure the kidneys and subsequent host will be protected?

    Perhaps it’s better for all of us to keep our individual parts? I know that’s difficult for someone who may be needing a kidney in order to live. The fact is that there’s no guarantee that even if you have a kidney donated and it matches that you will live. There simply are no guarantees in life.

    Comment by Kassandra | February 15, 2008 | Reply


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