Ethical Considerations Living Donor Risks Living Kidney Donor

Uproar Over Denied Kidney Transplant Completely Overlooks the Prospective Living Donor

The story of Jesus Navarro, the undocumented immigrant (aka illegal resident-slash-alien, whatever term seems to be in vogue these days), who was denied a kidney transplant due to his not-legal residential status and uncertain ability to obtain follow-up care and anti-rejection medications, has been big news of late. I chose not to comment because it seemed like a futile effort – and because I’ve been busy training poll workers not to bork the upcoming election in March.

But then I got an email from about a petition to help Mr. Navarro obtain his transplant. I wouldn’t have been bothered except for the misinformation and oh-so-constant theme.

Here’s the first paragraph:

Jesus Navarro could die without a kidney transplant. His wife is a match, she wants to donate her kidney to save her husband’s life, and Jesus even has health insurance to cover the transplant.


And here was my response to (which will probably go into the junk/spam folder or be returned as undeliverable):

I would encourage more research on this matter. Mr. Navarro lost his job and consequently his private insurance (he lost it because his company was caught up in an immigration sweep):

It also might serve your organization well to understand that a transplant is not a cure, and without proper medical follow-up (including funds for anti-rejection meds, which are very expensive), Mr. Navarro’s body will reject the transplanted kidney and he will be back where he started.

Mr. Navarro’s wife has offered to be his living kidney donor, yet no media outlet (including has asked whether she has employment or private insurance. No one has the least bit of concern that 4.4 living kidney donors die each year in the US within 12 months of surgery, 20% experience complications, 20-30% suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD, and not a single US transplant center offers aftercare or support.

The public (and media) perception is that kidneys are like pints of blood when in fact, there are NO national standards of living donor evaluation, selection or treatment, and there is NO data on living donors’ health or well-being. Hard to believe, I know, but the first living kidney donor transplant was performed in 1954, no identifying information on living donors was collected until 1994, and even though the Sec of Health mandated one year of follow-up on all living donors in 2000 (two yrs as of 2006), 30% of living donors are reported ‘lost’ by one year and NO transplant programs have been penalized for non-compliance.

So while everyone is in an uproar about Mr. Navarro being denied a kidney transplant in the US (when he could receive one in Mexico), no one has bothered to throw one errant thought to what will happen to his wife, or any other of the 6600 people in the US who become living donors every year. Which is the bigger atrocity?


What I didn’t say and could have is that Mr. Navarro now has a ‘sponsor’ willing to pay all of his medical bills. Mr. Kagan is a kidney recipient himself, WHOSE DONOR WAS AN ILLEGAL ALIEN (undocumented immigrant, whatever).

To quote:

“A person … had absolutely nothing and was willing to give his kidney to me,” said Kagan, the co-owner of a Berkeley technology firm.

It’s interesting that Mr. Kagan’s living kidney donor was A. not a relative and B. in the country illegally. He does not name this person, and this person has yet to come forward in any way or participate in Mr. Kagan’s vocal support for Mr. Navarro. Why is that?

– Is he no longer in the country?
– Did he receive payment for the kidney?
– Is he dead??

For the record, I have no way of knowing any of these things, but Mr. Kagan’s bias on this issue is pretty evident, and it’s not in the direction of ensuring any living donor is protected in any way.

Of course, he’s not alone. No one involved in this scenario or discussion appears to give one whit about what happens to Mrs. Navarro. The only goal is to get Mr. Navarro his precious transplant.

Unfortunately, what else is new?

Add Your Thoughts