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Cool, in a weird and disturbing way

Posted by Lissa on February 3, 2009

Let us all celebrate medical advances in the 21st century!

BALTIMORE – Surgeons removed a woman’s kidney through her vagina so she could give it to her ailing niece, an unusual operation they hope will encourage others to donate because it reduces pain, scarring and recovery time.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said donor Kimberly Johnson, 48, and her niece, Jennifer Gilbert, 23, were both doing well following operations Thursday.

“It was easier than childbirth,” said Johnson, who has three children.

According to the article, doctors hope that a less intrusive, less scarring, less painful operation will lead more people to become organ donors.  It notes,

More than 78,000 people are on the national waiting list to receive kidneys from deceased donors. The need is increasing as diabetes and obesity rise, threatening to further lengthen a wait that can last years. In 2007, more than a third of the 16,629 kidneys transplanted in the U.S. came from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Montgomery said the number of living donor transplants has tripled since laparoscopic removal debuted in 1995, providing an alternative to so-called “shark bite” abdominal incisions. He hopes advances such as the vaginal removal will continue the increase.

Would you give away a kidney if your niece, or nephew, or child needed one?  I’d guess it’s likely that you would.

Would you give away a kidney if someone who worked at your company needed a kidney?  That’s harder.

Would you give away a kidney if a total stranger needed one? 

What if that total stranger offered to pay you for it?

FWIW, I’m in favor of allowing people to sell their organs.  Your body belongs to you and it’s not the government’s business to dictate how or whether you can dispose of it.  Personally, I’d donate a kidney for a million bucks, no question.  I’d probably donate a kidney for $500 grand; that’s student loans paid off, college funds for my future kids AND a house. 

Logistically, I’m not sure that a market for human organs is feasible.  I also have a healthy fear of the Law of Unintended Consequences.  But as far as principles go, there’s my two cents.  What do you think?

(h/t Hot Air headlines)

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3 Responses to “Cool, in a weird and disturbing way”

  1. Mike said

    Most of the estimates I’ve seen for the “fair market value” of a kidney put it in the $25,000-50,000 range, so a small fraction of what you suggest. In general, though, I think it’s not such a bad idea to allow sales of organs, but there can be unintended consequences from turning an exercise in altruism–perhaps limited altruism if it’s going to a close family member–into a market transaction. Some people who’d gladly donate an organ today might not if doing so is “dirtied” by the exchange of money. There’s also the question of subsidies for poor people who need organs.

  2. totwtytr said

    I don’t have a vagina, so I’d have to donate the old fashioned way, I guess.

    I think I’d reserve my kidney for someone close to me, not a stranger.

    Organ transplantation is only a stop gap measure until we science can develop a way we can grow our own from stem cells. Which will open a whole new world of options.

  3. secretlivesofscientists said

    “The need is increasing as diabetes and obesity rise…”

    And yet people still stare at me with wonder when I say that people’s bodies are like cars and health insurance akin to car insurance and this is why equal health insurance wont work.

    If you want to neglect your body for years and years, or insist on driving like an asshole, you’re going to get in wrecks and you are considered an insurance risk. Everyone seems to understand THAT.

    hhmmph. And the kidney vagina thing? Dude! All I can say is she’s had three kids, I would *hope* this would be easier that childbirth. Still sounds damn unpleasant to me!

    I totally agree with totwtytr. I’ll donate my organs when I die, but in life would reserve my kidney for someone close to me.

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