Wake Up UNOS! It’s Not Working!

Is it ethical to compensate people for their organs?  That is the question that has perplexed ethicists since long before human organ transplantation became a reality.  Even 18th century philosopher Emmanuel Kant had thoughts on the subject because the poor were being exploited for their teeth, teeth that were transplanted into the empty gums of the very rich. 

Is a global market for organ sales the answer?   Can a for-profit system exist, save lives, and still not exploit the poor? A series of experts — medical doctors, international health experts, and ethicists — looked at the issue on Feb. 8, 2008 in the second of four Harvard conferences on current controversies in global health.               http://organizedwisdom.com/helpbar/index.html?return=http://organizedwisdom.com/Ethics_of_Human_Organ_Transplants&url=www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2008/02.14/01-organs.html

The present altruistic system of obtaining and allocating organs in the United States simply doesn’t work.  When you have a situation in which there are one hundred thousand people waiting for organs and several thousand dying because of no organ availability then something must change. There are many options but medical ethicists and UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), which controls the entire American system, are so hung up on the ethics of transplantation that change has become impossible albeit extremely necessary.  While the ethicists argue people are dying.

I write this blog not as an advocate for selling human organs but as an advocate for the dying.  What is wrong with considering some sort of compensation?   I believe we can avoid a situation in which the desperately poor are lured into selling their organs and become vulnerable to exploitation in the growing industry known as “transplant tourism.”

Some time ago I wrote a blog headlined, “Would you sell a kidney for $47.000.  The blog outlined a plan by an Australian physician that would set up such a system.  It was not an offer to buy a kidney.  Yet, I have received at least a dozen emails from people who want to sell their kidneys.  Some have good reasons others just say they need the money.

I don’t believe in setting up a worldwide market for human organs.  I believe as do many ethicists that the poor, underprivileged and uneducated would become victims.  I do, however, believe that we can compensate people in some manner, perhaps paying for related medical expenses (especially in the case of kidney donors who may have uncovered complications).  There may also be some merit in compensating donors for funeral expenses. 

According to Luc Noël, who tracks transplantation issues for WHO (World Health Organization of the United Nations) in Geneva, in the United States alone, one additional donated kidney a month to each of 58 donation service areas would create equilibrium — an equal number of waiting patients and available organs — by 2013.

The point it that we must do something.  To let UNOS continue to stonewall this horrible situation is unforgivable.   At least try a new plan in a test site for a year or two.  Perhaps a combination of presumed consent and some sort of compensation would be workable but let us at least test a concept instead of continually discarding all options without trial. 

Every year thousands die waiting for organs yet there is no public outrage.  Why not?  Why aren’t we all angry about the fact that people are dying unnecessarily? It is time that the number of available organs increased.  The altruistic approach isn’t working UNOS!  It is killing people and your intransigence is responsible. 

About Bob Aronson

Bob Aronson is a former journalist, a Minnesota Governor's Press Secretary and talk show host. For nearly a quarter of a century, he led the Aronson Partnership, a Minnesota-based communications consultancy that prepared corporate and government executives for crisis situations, regulatory testimony, media interviews and Presentations. Among his clients were all three U.S. Mayo Clinic locations, 3M, general Mills, CH2M Hill, the U.S. Department of Energy and scores more. In 2007 bob had a heart transplant after suffering from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy for 12 years. Shortly after he got his new heart he founded the now 4,300 member Facebook support group, Organ Transplant Initiative. At the same time, he established the Bob's Newheart blog where he has posted nearly 300 columns on organ donation, transplantation and other health related issues. The Viewpoint blog was started in late 2016 and bears the name of the Radio Talk show Bob did from 1966 until 1974, when he resigned to become Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich first Press secretary. Bob and his artist wife Robin, live in Jacksonville, Florida with their two dogs, Reilly and Ziggy. Bob is also a woodworker and makes all of the furnishings for Robin's art festival booth. He also makes one of a kind jewelry or "memories" boxes that he donates to select transplant patients, caregivers, donor families and others who have somehow contributed to making life easier for the ill, the elderly and the less fortunate. Bob is in the final stages of editing two full-length novels that will be available on Kindle when ready for release sometime in early 2017. One is a sci fi novel about an amazing discovery near Roswell, New Mexico and you will be surprised to find it has nothing to do with the Roswell story everyone knows. It features a woman scientist who investigates impact craters for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Dr. Rita Sylvester and her female student intern. The other book is a political thriller that introduces a new hero to the genre, Fargo Dennison.

Posted on January 3, 2009, in Bobservations. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. America needs two transplant waiting lists: the ‘A’ list for registered organ donors and the ‘B’ list for people who have not agreed to donate.

    UNOS should make this announcement: “Over 100,000 Americans are now waiting for organ transplants, and more than half of these people will die waiting. Just about everyone would accept a transplant if they needed one, but only about 50 percent of Americans have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. So beginning on July 1, 2009, UNOS will establish two waiting lists for transplant recipients. The ‘A’ list will be for people who have been registered organ donors for at least six months and for infants less than six months old who were registered as organ donors at birth. The ‘B’ list will be for everyone else. All organs will be allocated first to people on the ‘A’ list. Organs will be made available to people on the ‘B’ list only if not needed by any registered organ donor.”

    In response to this announcement, just about everyone in the United States who was not already a registered organ donor would register. The supply of transplantable organs would go way up, and thousands of lives would be saved every year. Very few people would refuse to donate their organs when they died if they knew it would reduce their chances of getting a transplant should they ever need one to live.

    Every year, Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs. And every year, over 8,000 Americans die because there aren’t enough organs for everyone who needs one.

    People who want to donate their organs to other organ donors don’t have to wait for UNOS to change its allocation rules. They can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers members agree to offer their organs first to other members when they die, if any member is a suitable match. Membership is free at http://www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.


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