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How can we end the donor organ shortage?

How can we end the donor organ shortage?

organ donorOur country’s organ shortage is an issue of critical importance – especially to the more than 100,000 Americans currently waiting for an organ transplant. In the words of Stanford’s Keith Humphreys, PhD, “Everyone agrees that 18 people dying each day on transplant waiting lists is unacceptable, but there is fierce disagreement about what to do about it.”

Next week, Humphreys will moderate a panel discussion that delves into the issue. He’ll be joined by three experts – including Stanford bioethicist David Magnus, PhD – who will discuss the effect of the organ donation on our country’s overall health and debate the ethical and practical aspects of proposals to solve the problem. Among the most controversial proposed approach and something that will be vigorously debated: paying people to donate their organs.

The event, part of Stanford’s Health Policy Forum series, will be held on July 28 at 11 AM at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, in room LK130. For those local readers: It’s free and open to the public, but space is limited. More information can be found on the forum website.

Previously: Students launch Stanford Life Savers initiative to boost organ donation, Full-length video available for Stanford’s Health Policy Forum on serious mental illness, Stanford forum on the future of health care in America posted online and Stanford Health Policy Forum focuses on America’s methamphetamine epidemic
Photo by Mika Marttila

4 Responses to “ How can we end the donor organ shortage? ”

  1. roxanne watson Says:

    get a donor family and a recipient on that panel – then you will have some real experts

  2. Raiza Mendoza Says:

    I agree with Roxanne Watson. A donor family member and a organ recipient should be include.

  3. Clark Says:

    In addition to a deceased donor family member and a recipient, a would be recipient and a living donor would help round out the conversation. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, too.

  4. Karol Franks Says:

    When it comes to organ transplants, everyone is paid, the transplant coordinator, the hospital, surgeon, anesthesiologist, pharmaceutical company, nurses, social worker, etc. No one is working for free. The person taking the biggest risk, the kidney donor, gets nothing. If there was a flat fee, paid via Medicare, then it wouldn’t matter if the recipient was rich or poor, because it would be paid like every medical expense, directly to the donor, and all patients would qualify for coverage.
    So why do I have concerns about paying living donors?
    The problem is, as Dr. House used to say, “People lie.” Part of the process of evaluating the potential donor is the oral health history given to the transplant team by the potential donor. If a person is feeling financial pressure they might not mention that they have a family history of CKD or diabetes or high blood pressure. This would put the donor at risk in the future.
    And what if it’s a pimp, sending his girls (or boys) in to donate a kidney so he can cash in? They would also be motivated to lie about their lifestyle and family history. How about someone in an abusive relationship, being pressured to give up a kidney? I am sure you can think of other scenarios where people would do something unethical. Ultimately this could lead to an outcome where the supposedly healthy donor ends up being a kidney patient themselves. The transplant team cannot interview the potential donors family, boss, neighbors, etc. And they don’t have a way to track their family health history, even with a meticulous screening process.
    It’s just not an easy solution.
    Some may say, it’s the donor’s right, if they make the choice and they don’t mind the risk of harming themselves. The problem with this is that ultimately they become everyone’s responsibility. It’s been a lifesaver that dialysis patients are automatically covered by Medicare. But we all are paying for it, and it could get much worse.
    This topic has been discussed for years, but no one has come up with a scenario which would save lives and pay for the kidney while not harming the donor.
    I agree, we need a national, highly successful living-donor exchange program for recipients and donors. The National Kidney Registry is the most productive and successful, and should be expanded to reach all participants who have a willing, but non-matching donor. It could eventually be an international program, helping more patients.
    Our daughter is waiting for a kidney in Los Angeles. The wait is now 10 years for a type O deceased donor kidney. The life expectancy on dialysis is 5 years, on average. I hope she is not going to be one of those statistics.
    Thankfully, living donors are making a difference.


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