Doctors Hope ‘Kidney-Swapping’ will Save Lives

October 24, 2007 07:06 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Responding to a donor shortage, doctors at several hospitals are coordinating kidney-swapping, in which healthy people exchange kidneys with strangers to help an ailing loved one.

30-Second Summary

Often a patient in need of a kidney transplant will look for a donor among friends and relatives. That search frequently produces willing benefactors whose good intentions are frustrated because these potential donors are medically incompatible with the intended recipient.

Now doctors at several U.S. hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Hospitals and New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, are choreographing a non-profit trade between kidney donors who are trying to help someone dear to them.

In this scheme, a donor who is incompatible with the donee can look to a pool of people in the same situation in order to arrange a swap.

This paired exchange is expected to provide a boost to the 6,400 kidney transplants that occur each year and shorten the transplant waiting list.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which maintains the national waiting list for organ transplants, 73,771 people are in line for a new kidney. Some of them will wait for as long as five years.

The lack of organs has created a global “black market” in kidneys. So far, Iran is the only country in the world to legalize this trade.

Headline Links: What is kidney-swapping?

Background: Function of the kidneys, kidney donations

Related Links: Altruistic donations, “extreme” kidney transplants, organ sales

Reference: Assistance for donors, national waiting list


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