Saturday, June 02, 2007
Dutch reality tv program -- "Big Donor Show" -- a hoax
It appears that organ-transplant officials the world over are a pretty conservative lot, adverse to publicity that could be seen as sensationalistic in any way, and of course there was plenty about this "show" not to like. But count this episode as one of many that illustrate the widespread feeling of frustration that "business as usual" isn't getting the job done in the organ-transplant field. The waiting-list statistics at UNOS tell a pretty grim tale:
- there are currently 96,047 registered patients on various waiting lists
- over the past 5 years, waiting-list registrations have skyrocketed for livers, kidneys, and lungs; the number of transplants has increased modestly, and the number of patients who died waiting for a transplant has either gone up modestly (livers and kidneys) or stayed about the same (lungs) despite heroic efforts to increase donations; for hearts, the number of deaths on the list has gone down slightly, but not because of an increase in the number of transplants, which has stayed about the same:
Historians of organ transplantation may well look back on 2007 as the year of the first big crack in the facade. I am thinking of HHS' opinion earlier this year that the prohibition against buying and selling organs (42 U.S.C. § 274e) would not be violated by paired exchanges of living donor kidney transplants. This is the situation when A donates a kidney to D in exchange for C's donation of a kidney to B, where A would otherwise be a living related donor to B, and C would otherwise be a living related donor to D, but for A-B and C-D incompatibility. (A variation on this theme occurs when a living related donor who is incompatible with a family member on the waiting list donates to a stranger, in exchange for which the patient on the waiting list receives some priority on the waiting list, which may substantially shorten his or her waiting time.) Every first-year Contracts student can spot the valuable consideration in these arrangements, but DOJ said the practice does not violate federal law. It can only be a matter of time before the supposed distinction between mutual promises (or the performance thereof) and the exchange of cash for a promise (or performance thereof) will crumble.