"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004
  The Virtue of Selfishness
I just finished reading a wonderful story from the AP:
Setting aside ethical concerns, surgeons completed a kidney transplant Wednesday in what is believed to be the first operation where the donor and recipient met through a commercial Web site.

The donor and recipient were doing well after the four-hour surgery, Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center spokeswoman Stephanie Lewis said.

Bob Hickey, who lives in a mountain town near Vail, had needed a transplant since 1999 because of kidney disease but had grown tired of being on the national waiting list. He met donor Rob Smitty of Chattanooga, Tenn., through MatchingDonors.com, for-profit Web site created in January to match donors and patients for a fee.
It is fantastic to see such an event occur - the company which matched these two up made money while doing it. Of course, this has left some people upset, as the story continues:
University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan said the first ethical issue raised by Internet donations is financial: Not everyone can afford to pay MatchingDonors.com's fees or donor expenses.

"Those who are better off are going to have access to people as potential donors that the poor or the shy won't have," he said.

Caplan also said the Web site did not highlight potential hazards for donors. "Their job is to make these matches happen," he said. "They're not in the business of trying to discourage anyone or warn them."
Translation - if the poor can't afford it, nobody should be able to have it. And even if they can afford it, they're too stupid to know the risks involved, so the government should at least regulate this practice thoroughly if not shut it down, to protect them.

And of course the biggest surprise is that the government bureaucrats at UNOS ("United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit group that works under government contract to allocate all organs donated from the dead. It doles out organs, in part, according to which patients need them the most.") aren't happy about this either. After all, they know better about who really needs an organ transplant:
UNOS came out against MatchingDonors.com in June, saying it "exploits vulnerable populations and subverts the equitable allocation of organs for transplantation." UNOS spokesman Joel Newman said the network is concerned when anyone puts his or her need for an organ above others.

"An organ that becomes available with certain medical characteristics should be offered equally to the people that could benefit from it," he said.
Sadly, the law doesn't allow people to be financially reimbursed for donating their organs, leaving this "market" to family members, friends and altruists. It isn't yet illegal to charge money to "connect" two people for an organ transplant or to pay for the "inconvenience" involved. But it is encouraging; if I need a transplant, I know the first thing I'm going to do.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 11:41 PM


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