Kidney donors get short shrift

I told you about the shocking scandal behind the organ transplant industry. How overeager surgeons are harvesting organs from patients who may not truly be “dead.” (And how the definition of death can be twisted to suit these supposedly “altruistic” purposes.)

The case of the long, largely successful kidney transplant program is different because it’s a living donor who chooses to donate a “spare” kidney. Nature wisely has a lot of built-in redundancy among our organ functions. So people can usually get along just fine without both lungs, their entire liver, or two kidneys.

But no one can argue that a lot more attention is paid to the kidney transplant recipients than to the donors.

Transplant centers are supposed to follow up with kidney donors for one year. But centers interpret that requirement differently. In many cases, they only report problems if they happen to hear about them. For example, at one point, Georgetown, where I am an Adjunct Professor, wasn’t  even sending any follow-up questionnaires to donors.

Potential complications to the donors include hernias, ongoing pain, and liver damage. But because the data have been spotty, we don’t really know for certain what the longer term complications of kidney donation may actually be. 

And, to make matters worse, many of the donors’ medical costs are not covered. (In contrast, Medicare and insurance companies make generous payments to cover kidney transplant recipients.)

Then there is time lost from work. Donors are told to take off one month from work, but nearly two-thirds of donors need more than that—often two or three months, at least. And many companies do not provide job security during this medically necessary leave—let alone compensation.

In the September issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I share even more  disturbing news about kidney transplants. This story made a minor “blip” on CNN back in June. But it faded into obscurity quickly. And no one has mentioned it since. But if you know anyone considering donating a kidney (or are considering it yourself), this is information you absolutely must be aware of before you make your final decision. If you’re not already a subscriber to Insiders’ Cures, you can sign up today.

These concerns certainly need more attention. But under the constraints of Obamacare, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.