Kidney Blogging, Cont'd
by Virginia Postrel • Dec 29, 2006 at 4:45 pm
Reader Shari Hillman sends this link to a story about one of her neighbors who donated a kidney to a friend. Shari writes:
More often, the donor is the one who wants to keep the matter private, because people make so much fuss, pro and con, about donations. That was the case with the widely reported instance of former Cowboy cornerback Everson Walls, who has volunteered a kidney to his friend and former teammate Ron Springs. The most shocking thing to me about the Walls case was that, according to the A.P. report, he had to endure a "500-question psychiatric evaluation." That's ridiculously invasive and time-consuming, and a classic example of how too many transplant centers treat living donors. An interview with a social worker is reasonable. A lengthy and deliberately daunting exam is simply calculated to discourage donors--which is, in fact, the point of the process in way too many places. Donors deserve respect, not infantilization. Although it was accidentally disclosed, I applaud Walls and Springs for telling their story. People need to know that the need is there and that donation is not an inconceivable act.
While the huge waiting list for a cadaver organ is horrible enough, some kidney patients don't even have that option. Here's the story of Jennifer Kates, a 29-year-old Boston-area woman who has been on dialysis for seven years and will die without a living donor. Her family members aren't compatible, and her brother has mounted a desperate publicity campaign, especially targeting the local Jewish community, to find a donor with type A or O blood. A Boston-area journalist told me about the case. For more information, see this website.
Jennifer Kates is a perfect example of why an above-board, domestic market for organs, within the legal and medical protections of our very sophisticated transplant system, would be far superior to the current "altruism-only" model. Kates cannot be helped by a deceased donor. She has a tiny family. Yet while affluent professionals can hire egg donors and surrogate mothers to undergo risky medical procedures for pay, neither her family nor an insurance company nor the hospital nor the government can legally compensate the living donor she needs to survive. It's a travesty perpetuated in the name of "justice" and "dignity."
Things could, however, be much worse than they are in the U.S. In Japan, it would have been illegal for me to give my kidney to Sally Satel, because we are not related. So Japanese kidney patients get people to pretend to be relatives, which is illegal, and money sometimes changes hands, which is also illegal. Sean Kinsell explains here. In a high-profile recent case, a couple was just convicted for paying an acquaintance to give the man a kidney, pretending to be the woman's sister. They received one-year prison terms, suspended for three years. "The couple's actions violated the spirit of the Organ Transplants Law, which represents humanity, volunteerism and fairness, and seriously eroded public trust in medical transplant procedures," said the judge. Ah, the humanity.
On a more positive note, next week the Discovery Channel will air a program on a six-person "paired donation" that enabled three people to receive compatible kidneys. Paired donation allows someone whose kidney is incompatible with a loved one in need to give that kidney to another patient who has a loved one with a kidney that's compatible for the first patient. It's a complicated barter system, but right now paired donation--which may or may not be legal under federal law--is the best hope for people with willing but incompatible living donors.
UPDATE: Happy New Year, InstaPundit readers. There is yet more Kidney Blogging on the main page.
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