Kidneys, Organ Donation and the Market

10 03 2011

Last week, I received an e-mail from a Jewish organization looking for a kidney donor for one of its members.  I saw her photo, read her bio and the wheels in my head started turning.

…I know someone who has donated a kidney, so I have a personal resource of my own.  I have two kidneys, and when kidney failure occurs, it usually hits both kidneys at the same time so in a sense I definitely have an extra.  Most people live with this huge chasm between their ideals and values, and reality.  I thought:  Wouldn’t it be great if I could make one decision that would make that gap smaller?  I wouldn’t be a hero, my life still wouldn’t be remarkable in the grand scheme of things, but I could really help a seemingly great person and maybe save her life.

I didn’t try and convince myself upfront, but I did begin thinking about it and researching it.  The pain and discomfort would have been manageable.  The scar would have been annoying, but I probably would have been proud of it, too.  The time commitment wouldn’t be a big deal because, well if you’re already reading this blog then the because is obvious.  The deal-breaker was the warning that live donors should not participate in high-collision activities and active sports such as wrestling, sky-diving and – I would imagine – gymnastics.

I am such an active person, and enjoy intensely exploring this world through my mind and body.  I know that I would be afraid of rupturing the other kidney and would have to make too many big lifestyle changes.  I hope and believe that this woman will find a donor, but I had to be honest with myself and realized that the donation would have impaired my quality of life in a way that I was not willing to accept at my age.

This thought process led to several conversations with Yair and friends this weekend about organ donation and eventually organ sale.  Of course there are tremendous ethical considerations, but the whopper of a question is:  If 300 million people in this country have an extra something, and thousands of people may die because they don’t have one of that thing, how ethical is it to not allow the former group to consider selling their extra to the latter?

Not that Iran is the paradigm of virtue, but if my source (Yair) is correct, Iran is the only country in the world without an kidney donor deficit / waiting list because the government compensate donors at a set fee.  Interesting.

Share your thoughts!

posted by ayo

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4 responses

10 03 2011
Michael

Voluntarily reducing world population is the biggest issue in my view. From my work on the film GrowthBusters (http://motionista.blogspot.com/2009/11/growthbusters-poster-update.html) the best way to reduce population is to educate women. From my experience they need to get to a Masters Degree or higher to actually reverse overpopulation which means not having children or having only one.

I think I’ve thought about what progress is better than anyone I’ve met or heard of. This includes well known scholars. I’ve had a Stanford Professor validate that I’m on the right track and he say’s they’re now teaching similar stuff to what I’ve written. But he has not laid it all out for me to see so I can verify. Also maybe they have too much to lose to come right out at put it like I have. Here’s some of what I’ve written:

Theory of Almost Everything
http://theperplexity.blogspot.com/2009/12/theory-of-almost-everything.html

Can Morality Be Computed?
http://theperplexity.blogspot.com/2010/03/can-morality-be-computed.html

10 03 2011
frugalveganmom

I agree with you, but think the other side of the argument goes something like “well then that would create a situation where poor people are more likely to be selling their organs and that’s not ethical”.

Which is ridiculous, because people make all sorts of decisions based on money, but that’s the point, it is still their decision, there will always be richer people and poorer people and we can’t base all our laws on that disparity.

11 03 2011
Diane

My sister gave her husband of 25 years a kidney recently after his failed due to a hereditary condition. I was their advocate at the hospital. Although they are both doing well now, I can tell you that giving up a kidney is not a walk in the park. It is said that it is much harder initially to be the donor than the recipient. Based on their experience, this seems abundantly true.

I don’t know if you are planning on having kids, but I’d definitely postpone such an optional gift until after that process has been completed. In the mean time, how about doing something simple like donating blood?

15 03 2011
amybetho

That’s a fair suggestion. Re: donating blood, I used to be pretty scared of needles but overcame that fear when I needed to do genetic testing before tying the knot. I’m almost never eligible to donate blood because of the countries that I visit, but I’d like to think that when I have a 12-month “clean streak”, blood donation will be a great way to contribute and do some good.

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