Stories tagged organ donation

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., operations in two hospitals swapped 13 kidneys between 26 different bodies in the largest kidney transplant process ever conducted. Most of the recipients had conditions creating a situation where it was hard to match a kidney for their body. But they had to procure a donor for another hard-to-match recipient. Then the doctors mixed and matched all the donors to find the right recipients making for the record operation. Read about it all right here.

Here's the weird organ transplant story of today. A heart, maybe a human one, was found on the floor of a car wash in Michigan. Investigators are trying to determine if it's a human heart or from another species. No word on if Dick Cheney had recently washed his car there.

May
20
2008

Another day at the lab: Not exactly a "clean room," but it does the trick.
Another day at the lab: Not exactly a "clean room," but it does the trick.Courtesy phil dokas
These days it’s all about growing organs. Like the Frankenrat hearts, remember?

Don’t get me wrong, growing hearts from scratch is great, but, really, what am I supposed to do with an extra heart? Frame it? Bo, grow me an organ I can use now, and we’ll talk. That’s why I’m getting into this little development: replacement bladders. Or, as I like to call them, extra bladders.

Turn that one over in your braincase. You’re engaged in one of the countless activities during which you don’t want to be peeing (watching a movie, taking a bath, wrestling a bully) and all of a sudden…you’re full to the point of overflowing. How did that happen? It was all that Gatorade—those bottles are so big! But no probs, just switch to the auxiliary tank. Or, you know, if you lost your bladder to cancer. Then it would be pretty nice too.

The process for growing the bladders is sort of similar to the heart-growing linked to above. Progenitor cells from the recipient’s old bladder are grown in a culture, and then seeded to an organic frame—a bladder-shaped scaffold made from collagen. Once the tissue grows over the scaffold, the whole thing is implanted into the recipient.

The procedure has been tested on 14 large mammals, and within six months the new bladder seems to work pretty much the same as the original, with no abnormal tissue growth, or signs of rejection from the host body.

I can hardly wait.

You weren't using that kidney right?
You weren't using that kidney right?
I was rather surprised to find out that only 50 organ transplants were conducted in the country of Scotland in 2005, despite their being 818 people on the waiting list for organs. This statistic and others are pushing the BMA (British Medical Association) to argue for a system of presumed consent for organ donation. Click to read their description of this new idea.

Jun
03
2007

I have always been a strong proponent of lies and lying. Ask any one of my wives, and they will tell you the same thing.

Sure, lies for personal gain are my favorite, but I’ll lie out of spite, to avoid embarrassment, or just to keep myself in practice. Ask my lying coach, and he’ll tell you the same thing. Just kidding – I don’t have a lying coach. Or do I?
Reality TV?: The Dutch kidney-donation program was revealed to be a hoax. (photo by Jeff Kubina)
Reality TV?: The Dutch kidney-donation program was revealed to be a hoax. (photo by Jeff Kubina)

Anyhow, I think it’s because of this lifelong habit of mine that this little story caught my eyes and ears: A week or two ago, I heard a short story on public radio about a controversial reality show that was being advertised in the Netherlands. The premise of the show was that a terminally ill woman would be choosing one of several contestants to donate one of her kidneys to. The program was being developed by the creators of the Big Brother series, and had been accused of being in bad taste (and then some).

On Friday, however, shortly before the show was scheduled to air, it was revealed to have been a hoax meant to draw attention to the shortage of organ donors. In the Netherlands alone, over 200 people die each year while waiting for a kidney transplant. That’s equal to the entire population of Luxembourg (or is it?).

A very serious issue is being addressed here, but was this the right way to gain public attention? The perpetrators of the hoax were perhaps right in thinking that the average person cares more about what’s happening on reality TV than they do about organ donation (and who can blame us? ANTM is fantastic!), but was this going too far, being too insensitive?

Anybody have any strong feelings on the subject?

An article about the hoax.

May
09
2007

Diorama of the first heart transplant surgery: Is this the future of prisoner executions?Courtesy Trygve Berge
Diorama of the first heart transplant surgery: Is this the future of prisoner executions?
Courtesy Trygve Berge
I read a rather fascinating story last night by Larry Niven called The Jigsaw Man. Without giving away the plot completely, it spells out the possible dystopian future we could face as organ transplants become more efficient and common. In the story, society is not able to resist the temptation to harvest organs from criminals who are executed for their crimes. However, as the demand for organs grows, the list of crimes that are punishable by execution grows as well (think traffic offenses). Where does it stop? Well, you can read the story.

This story, written in the late 60s, is a great example of science fiction predicting the future in a small way. We reported recently (Give a kidney, do less time: State deals with organ donation ethics) on California lawmakers considering a law that could give prisoners up to 180 days off their sentence for donating a kidney. If we start trading time of prison terms for organs, why shouldn't we require organ harvesting from executed prisoners? I personally think this would be ethically atrocious but I also know there are allot of people waiting on the list for organ transplants.

What do you think? Do you see any sort of future where prisoners are considered acceptable organ donors, with or without their permission?

Mar
09
2007

Kidney cost: What's the value of receiving a donated kidney? That's the question South Carolina legislators are dealing with over a proposed law to reduce sentences of prisoners who donate their organs.
Kidney cost: What's the value of receiving a donated kidney? That's the question South Carolina legislators are dealing with over a proposed law to reduce sentences of prisoners who donate their organs.
How valuable is a donated organ?

That’s the question South Carolina legislators are grappling with as they consider a measure to give state prisoners time off from their sentences if they donate organs to needy patients. For instance, giving up a kidney could reduce a prisoner’s sentence by 180 days.

While the idea was gaining momentum in the current legislative session, lawmakers are now holding off on making a decision until they can get a ruling on federal laws regarding organ donations.

Those laws make it illegal to gain anything of “valuable consideration” for donating an organ. That generally means that people can’t be paid money for giving an organ. But is getting time off from a prison sentence “valuable consideration”?

Organ donation advocates in South Carolina see the concept as a way of saving a lot of lives and getting more needed organ donations into the pipeline.

During the run of Body Worlds at the Science Museum last year, I had many interesting conversations with visitors about organ and body donation. But this topic never came up. It strikes me that there are a lot deeper ethical questions to consider with this.

Personally, I think there’s too much self interest in donating an organ to shorten a prison sentence. The act of organ donation should be like giving a gift, with no strings attached.

What do you think? Share your comments here with other Science Buzz readers.

Here's an interesting article about the ethics and hazards of living organ donation. You have two; would you be willing to give one of your kidneys to a friend or family member? How about a stranger?