Less Regulated Approach to Kidney Transplant 'Troubling' and 'Radical' for Evening Broadcast

     If you can buy sperm or eggs, why are kidneys so radical to ABC?


     ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” called a doctor’s market-like approach to organ donation, in which individuals could buy and sell kidneys, “radical” November 19.


     “Now an outspoken doctor is proposing a radical solution, allow donors to sell one of their kidneys,” anchor Gibson began.

     University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Arthur Matas supports a regulated market only for kidneys (not for other organs) and has said that ruling out kidney sales completely is like sentencing some patients to death.

     Reporter John McKenzie warned that buying and selling kidneys “is deeply troubling to most people” and “virtually every major medical association opposes the idea.”

     Dr. Gabriel Danovich from UCLA Medical School told ABC News that the sellers would probably be the most desperate for money and would not even tell doctors their medical history before operation.


     But Dr. Matas’s plan also proposes regulation by the government to ensure donors have a physical and psychological evaluation and free long-term health care afterwards.


     “It sounds like the wrong thing to do, to be buying kidneys, until you start realizing that until we do something dramatic we’re going to have a continuation of this situation where patients are dying on dialysis and their quality of life is worse,” Matas told ABC.


     According to the November 12 edition of The Wall Street Journal, currently patients who need a kidney are put on a waiting list to get one from a deceased donor. The organ is handed out based on “geography, waiting time and various other medical factors.”


     The Journal also points out that waiting time across the country “easily [tops] five or six years in many areas,” and that those who have a living donor can bypass the list, but the donors must confirm that no one is paying them to give up the kidney.


     Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who once debated this issue with Dr. Matas, now says, "I've started to think [a trial is] at least worth a look."


     Kerry Howley, now a senior editor at Reason magazine, said in a 2006 article called “Who Owns Your Organs” that under the law every corpse has a value of zero, “But transplantable organs and tissues grow more valuable every day.”


     Howley told the story of a woman who wanted her deceased husband’s kidneys to go to a longtime friend, but the woman soon learned that the government dictated where organs went.


     “Americans have no choice but to donate through an organization; it is illegal to exchange kidneys privately, and the federal government has designated an organ procurement organization for every American locality,” Howley explained.


     “Body parts aren’t legal property to the people born with them, but can be distributed by doctors, universities, biotech companies, and procurement agencies for profit or otherwise,” she wrote.