Organ Donations



The shortage of donor organs has become such an issue, that people in need for one, or their loved ones, have taken to public requests for help.


It might be one of the saddest things you’ll find on the internet: a website--a public plea for an organ for someone in dire need…who might otherwise die without one.


But according to a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine, this is a controversial course to take, and the question is, does it work, and does it favor those with more means to get state their case publicly?


The system that is set up for the distribution of organs is designed to get the organs to those most in need.  But there are potential loopholes, and when it comes to living donors, the issue is even more complicated.


Now, a debate has developed about the public solicitation of organs, which takes place over the internet, on billboards, and through other advertising, including plea letters from a pr agency.


The website matching is a meeting place for donors or donor families and patients.  It’s not for profit, but it charges patients to post their plea.


Experts argue it creates a potential problem for living donations.


Dr. Sukru Emre, Director of the Liver Transplant Program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, says, “The current regulation is that there should be some relation between donor and recipient, it might be blood, spouses, maybe some emotional relation, good friends.”


Public pleas for cadaver organs on other sites bypass typical organ donation pathways which provide for a fair, anonymous donation for cadaver donations.  “When you decide to give one organ to one individual//we are creating a two tier system which is not fair for the other patient waiting on the list. That’s why we are against it,” states Dr. Emre.


John Lee, a 37 year old liver transplant recipient, says, “Times have changed now, it sounds a little bizarre, but if you need to do whatever you got to do to survive.  It must be that they’re in such a desperate need.” 


John lives today because he got a donor liver, and in turn, his liver was actually usable by someone else. The transplants were arranged through traditional means, but john says, he knows how the people still waiting for an organ are feeling.  He states, when it comes to living donors, they should be able to do what they want.


“If it’s a choice that I want to give a piece of me to you, that’s my personal preference, and if we’re compatible, then I don’t see anything wrong with that,” John believes.


John’s liver went to Hariet Goldman.  But Hariet believes it’s not ok to go outside the system, and that the patient most in need and the best possible match should get the organ.


“I think they take advantage of poor people who are left with impaired health because they don’t have the ability or resources.  Organs are so rare, you have to be very sick to get one. And you kind of accept that you’re going to die, and then all of a sudden life is saved, and you really appreciate life,” Harriet says.


As of July 2005, there were about 89,000 people on waiting lists. For the largest group — the 62,500 patients awaiting kidneys — the expectation is that only about a quarter of them will receive a transplant within the next year.


In November 2004, UNOS announced its opposition to the solicitation of organs from deceased donors who had no personal or family bond with the patient.  The thinking is that solicitations can undermine the allocation system and prevent the best medical use of the organ.


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