EVERY TIME I read an article about Organ Donation, there are online comments that reveal the flat-out wrongness of some people’s perception of organ donation.
So, I’m gonna set the record straight. Again. Please pass around!
1) Organ donation has nothing to do with social status, wealth, etc. People who receive organs are receiving the organ because of various medical factors. Allocation is different for each organ transplant. But here’s an example: For lung transplant, how sick you are, how well you can function, affects your allocation score. For example, moi. I was only on the list for about 6-7 weeks, but I was sick. Plus, I have a rare blood type. Medical factors are all that go into consideration once you are listed.
2) Factors such as the ability to handle a complex drug regimen, social support, mental health, etc. are factors in the screening process. Obviously, if someone does not have the ability (or does not have the support system) to continue the post-transplant regimen (as in, they have proven to be non-compliant in past medical treatment issues, they live alone and aren’t able to function that way, etc.), it’s fool hardy to give them an organ. Things like drug abuse, smoking, alcoholism—these all need to be handled (as in, addictions kicked) before transplant. Or no organ for you!
3) Most insurance companies have transplant funding in their coverage. There are variants in coverage, caps, locations you can go, etc. When you begin the transplant progress, you meet with a financial rep from the hospital. They outline the costs with your plan, and then you talk brass tacks—if the hospital can help you financially (as in, special programs, like Nationwide Children’s has, etc.), what other programs are available, etc. This is not an, “Oh, yeah, $800,000 right now, please,” sort of enterprise. Transplants are hardly considered “experimental” anymore, in a medical sense. So there is some coverage. You will not go broke immediately. Talk to the hospital about your options! You do not need to have super duper awesome insurance, or a bazillion bake sales, to fund a transplant.
4) Let us abolish the stupid, “The president and a drug addict are up for the same organ transplant” idea. It’s stupid, and it’s wrong. Someone is always medically ahead. Someone is always a better match for the organ. This is dumb to even think about. And it doesn’t happen this way. (See bullet 1)
5) Conversely, the “old vs. young” thing doesn’t really happen either. For transplant, in general, you have to be sick enough to need the surgery, but healthy enough to survive the surgery. It’s a precarious line. And yes, with older people, the ability to “bounce back”, to go through the post-op and the PT regimen, may be an issue. But some kids are definitely on this line, too.
In general, people throw all these ethical issues into donation that do not exist. It’s not some super complicated moral puzzle. All major religions support organ donation (provided it is voluntary, not coerced). It’s not about young vs old, rich vs poor, famous vs not. It’s a science, folks. When my donor died, I was the best match (Actually the story of how I got my lungs is sort of awesome. ) She was around my height and my weight (that is important, obviously). We had the same blood type, etc.
Organ donation drama might make for good movies, but in reality, the drama is that we are not all organ donors. If you’re not, be a donor. Save lives!
And, of course, if you have any questions, fire away. I will do my best to answer, or point you to where you can get answers!