Chicago Tribune – Debate Over Kidney Transplant Allocation

Many of you may have read the article by Judith Graham that ran in last Friday’s Chicago Tribune (“Should age determine who gets a kidney transplant?”) (Full Article) discussing the controversial proposal of placing younger transplant patients higher on the waiting list.

The issue obviously raises a host of moral and ethical considerations and I invited Kim McCullough, Manager of Public Relations for Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network to comment on the issue. I have posted Kim’s remarks below. I look forward to any comments or feedback on the issue, thanks. -Scott

The present organ matching system has done a great deal of good for many people, yet obviously the United Network of Organ Sharing continues exploring every opportunity to do better and make sure scarce donated organs are allocated efficiently and effectively to benefit as many people as possible. The “lifetime survival” concept currently under debate is one such idea under study, and time will tell whether it should factor into future organ allocation policy.

But while the nation continues wrestling with the most humane and best allocation of scarce donated kidneys, there is another question that needs asking: What are the ethics of not donating when the need is so great? It’s considered a rare act to donate, yet it’s time that the opposite is the rule: It should be a rare act to refuse donation to save another person’s life.

Remember this critical point: The only true solution to the organ shortage is to have enough organs available to meet the need.

Increased donation equates to increased transplants and decreased wait times. To provide kidneys and other organs to those awaiting transplant, every single one of us needs do the obvious: Take a moment and register as an organ donor.

Remember, too, that if you live in Illinois and believe you already are a registered organ/tissue donor, chances are you’re wrong. A relatively new state law established a new donor registry through the office of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White that requires anyone who registered before Jan. 1, 2006 to re-register to ensure his or her wishes to donate are honored. All you have to do is visit http://www.iamareyou.org/ and take literally just 30 seconds to register.

A recent statewide poll showed that nearly 90 percent of Illinoisans agree that signing up for organ donation is “the right thing to do.” But 40 percent have not registered. Fewer still are aware of the new registry and the need to re-register.

The growing transplant list now includes nearly 4,700 patients at Illinois’ eight transplant centers. As a coalition of Illinois agencies working to increase donations and decrease wait-list times as quickly as possible, we have launched this campaign to register 3.5 million Illinoisans in the next year and a half in our mission to help save more lives.

Due to the growing medical need and number of patients who can benefit by transplantation, there will always be an organ waiting list. With regard to kidney allocation, UNOS will eventually make a decision after public input regarding how best to approach lifetime survival benefit.

But in the meantime, every reader has the opportunity right now to do something to help solve the problem. Take the next 30 seconds and give others a second chance at life. It could be the most important moment of your day—and someday, someone else’s life.

– Kim McCullough
Manager of Public Relations
Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network

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