News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Donating organ shouldn't cause a financial burden

Any way you look at it, donating an organ is costly. But the burden should not be financial.

Organ donors jeopardize their own health by exposing their bodies to unnecessary stress and giving away body parts that they might need in the future. They sacrifice weeks or months for surgery and recuperation. They take emotional risks. All this is unavoidable, but each donor does it voluntarily and unselfishly because another person — the organ recipient — is in greater need.

We do not have enough organ donors. In the United States alone, 94,674 transplant candidates were waiting for organs just a few days ago, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Unfortunately, an organ sometimes does cost the donor money. The Associated Press reports that donors such as John Wayne Bennett, 44, and John Phipps, 34, who donated kidneys at The University of Alabama in Birmingham, have unreimbursed expenses for travel, follow-up care and missed workdays.

Some transplant authorities want Medicare to reimburse donors for financial losses and provide follow-up insurance. Organ recipients' private health insurance could be another source of funding for donors' expenses.

Medical ethicists hesitate to endorse anything that might lead poor people to donate organs in exchange for money, but surely costs could be documented well enough to see that no one makes a profit off donating an organ. There is another ethical consideration: Patients who need organs are dying or living impaired lives while potential donors cannot afford to help them.

Medical, legal and political experts should get together and find a way to make it financially possible for more people to donate organs.

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