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On July 2, NPR ran a story revealing the untold risks of organ donation, which can cost donors their physical, emotional and financial well-being.

Interviewers spoke with Jeff Moyer and Vicky Young, both of whom donated a kidney and experienced unexpected, life-altering side effects like unexplained chronic pain and kidney disease.

NPR reported that over 100,000 individuals have donated a kidney with hardly any complications, but donor advocate Donna Luebke stated that transplant centers often neglect to follow up on a donor’s health after transplant surgery, so there’s really no way to know how many donors suffer like Moyer and Young.

Luebke believes that little is done to protect donors’ rights and health, and she’s become a national advocate for a registry that would keep track of them. This registry would help assess the safety of organ donation. She knows firsthand about these issues because she donated a kidney to her sister, Rita Luebke. Our law firm was privileged to represent Rita in a medical malpractice case that arose out of the misdiagnosis of her kidney disease that resulted in the rejection of the kidney that her sister donated to her.

NPR stated that although organ transplants began in 1954, the United Network for Organ Sharing didn’t begin requesting donors’ health status from transplant centers until 2006. University of Chicago physician and professor of bioethics Liane Friedman Ross said that a national comprehensive registry of kidney donors, “should be morally required.”

“We need to be able to give more particular information to living donors,” Ross said. “It’s not just ‘On average, two out of 1,000 go into kidney failure;’ it’s ‘What is my risk as a potential kidney donor?’”

Kidney specialist Thomas McCune told NPR that an insurance policy has been around for 12 years that protects and keeps track of donor health for a one-time fee of $550. But, he said, only a handful of the nearly 300 transplant programs cover all of their donors because telling them about the policy may prevent some people from donating.

If that’s true, then what the organ transplant system fails to realize is that the magnitude of helping someone else to live outweighs any potential life-altering side effects.

“It is one of the most important things I have ever done in my life,” Moyer told NPR. “And I would do it again.”


  1. Gravatar for David J Undis

    Your story about Live Organ Donation highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

    There are now over 114,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting List, with over 50% of these people dying before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage ā€“ give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Everyone who is willing to receive should be willing to give.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at 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. LifeSharers has over 15,000 members as of this writing, including 595 members in Ohio.

    Please contact me - Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers - if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you're interested. My email address is My phone number is 615-351-8622.

  2. Gravatar for livingdonor101

    A 20% complication rate for living kidney donors is not rare (per OPTN and LODN data). The author of the NPR piece had access to this information but chose to minimize the matter so as to not appear to be anti-living donation (the slur commonly associated with anyone who speaks out about the reality of living donors).

    Mr. Undis, above, is perverting statistics to further his own agenda. In 2002, UNOS began allowing 'inactive' people to stay on the wait list indefinitely. Those deemed inactive cannot undergo transplant even if an organ becomes available. According to Delmonico's analysis, 1/3 of the wait list is now inactive, as are 52% of the deaths on the wait list.

    The biggest kidney killer in the US is diabetes, and 70-plus percentage of those cases could be prevented and/or treated prior to kidney failure. The solution to the so-called organ shortage is not harvesting from the living, but concentrating on education and prevention. Unfortunately, those efforts aren't as profitable as transplants.

  3. Gravatar for Linda

    I am a living kidney donor for my brother.

    I did happen to by accident find out about the insurance that Thomas McCune mentioned, and it was very limited - only covered complications due to the surgery. I did ask how many people ever had a claim and they said only 1.

    HOWEVER, that being said, getting health insurance for me was a real problem before the transplant, and then after the transplant I paid more for less for a while.

    So, I would DONATE a kidney again to my brother in a heartbeat, but the system needs to have more insurance (health etc) for donors.

    Otherwise we will continue to see the black market of donors grow on FB for $$.

  4. Gravatar for Rebecca Farwell

    Much more needs to be done, and monitored, post-donation. I donated a kidney to my husband. He died following the surgery, due - I believe - to a failure to monitor his symptoms adequately and to take timely, appropriate actions that could have saved him. So while I am physically a healthy donor, I am also one who has to live with the devastating knowledge that her donation killed her husband. Donating a kidney ruined my life. With hindsight I would never have done it; it was the worst mistake I have ever made.

  5. Gravatar for SuzanneAltmann

    Now, someone with a headache, stomach pain, or an affected heart comes to see the doctor. He gets prescribed something. Not a single word from his doctor that this does not help, because his illness comes from exploitation, oppression, alienation and poverty, and it is this that has to stop. Never gets to know that what is supposed to be good for the heart (e.g. cholesterol-lowering agent) is exactly what destroys the heart all the more, that antibiotics, antidepressants, blood pressure medication, gout and rheumatism medication is toxic to the kidneys and liver. Swallows this stuff year after year. Trusts his doctor and is even grateful if the doctor one day says: for your damaged kidneys, the liver, the heart, Iā€™d know something. The waiting list is long, however. Because so little people donate. What the doctors do with the patients, I think, is like sending a small child on the motorway.


  6. Gravatar for francis Jackson

    This is such an important issue--who would have thought that donors aren't being told that this insurance is readily available and so inexpensive!

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