Online Organ Matching Stirring Controversy

It was the first donor-recipient match arranged on a commercial website. A group of Tallahassee transplant recipients gathered for a support group meeting Thursday night, and we talked with them about this groundbreaking and controversial transplant.

Most of the people in the room have either given or received a kidney transplant. Those we talked to are wary of a new website on which patients pay to post ads for a suitable kidney or liver donor.

Dan Callahan, a kidney transplant recipient, says, "As long as there's no money involved as far as payment to the donor, I think it's a, it could be a very good thing."

The big ethical dilemma is the men who created it. Bob Hickey and Robert Smitty met on a website called matching donors.com. They swear no money changed hands for the kidney that saved Bob's life.

Tallahassee kidney transplant recipient Ed Lloyd is skeptical. He fears websites like this will allow wealthy people to get organs while poor people languish on the waiting list.

Ed says, "Some people would have an advantage over others who may have been waiting for a very long time, so personally, I don't agree with it."

Right now, the average wait for a kidney in Florida is two to three years. The transplant director from Shands Hospital echoes the recommendation of a national surgeon's group.

Pamela Patton of the Shands Hospital Kidney Transplant Program says, "If people want to donate for altruistic reasons, that is they want to donate to someone they may not even know, that that kidney be used to go to people who are at the top of the list."

Members of matchingdonors.com pay about $300 a month to advertise for a kidney, liver or bone morrow. The website says its goal is to provide a way to expedite organ donations, but many in the medical community have serious ethical concerns about this new commercial venture.


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