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Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More on organ donation

In the comments on a previous post , a commenter included an email conversation between herself and a friend. They were having a discussion on donating organs to someone with an alcohol or drug use. As her friend put it "I personally don't want my organs to go to some alcoholic who has ruined his own liver and I don't want my lungs going to anyone who needs a lung transplant who has a 20 a day habit." She wanted to hear other thoughts on this. I've never actually replied directly to a comment before but here goes.

I'm not sure how things are in the UK, but here in the States there is an evaluation process that someone goes through before they can be placed on the list. The severity of their illness is only one of the things taken into account. Also looked at are length of time on the list, geography. The Mayo Clinic has a good page on organ transplantation. On it they talk about the fact that being a smoker can disqualify a person from being a recipient. At least in this country, people who abuse alcohol and drugs are not considered good candidates for an organ. Even a person's compliance with their physicians orders in the past is looked at. I would presume that in the UK, like here, they have some sort of vetting process. That is not to say that people don't slip through.

George Best was a British soccer player with a long history of alcohol abuse. He got a brand new liver in 2002. In 2004 he had one of many DUI arrests. He subsequently died in 2005.

That is not to say that someone who has a history of substance abuse would not ever get an organ. If they are clean and sober, and show that they have changed their life, a new liver/kidney/heart could be on the positive reinforcement they need to keep on the right path.

I'm of the opinion that you shouldn't let a concern about who is getting your organs to dictate your willingness to donate. The people running the list do their best to make sure the recipient is someone who will recognize the donation for what it is. The ultimate gift someone can give to another - a second chance at life.

In my area we have UNYTS (Upstate New York Transplant Services) who do a great deal of outreach in the area. One of the pages on their website is Facts and Figures . I am particularly proud that in my area we have a 65% donation rate. The nationwide average is 50%. I would love to see that number get higher.

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