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.”