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Advocacy Ethical Considerations Living Donor Risks Living Kidney Donor

When Money Gets Involved

The headline reads: Donor, Recipient No Longer Speak.

I know nothing about this situation other than what is written in this article, so I’m using it more for the general themes contained within as opposed to the specifics of these people.

A 30 year old father and husband receives a kidney from a so-called Good Samaritan, a 26 year old single mom who overheard the recipient’s wife speaking about his plight outside of their kids’ school one day. While the recipient’s insurance pays for testing and surgical costs, it does not reimburse the donor for wages lost or other such things during recovery of the October 9th procedure (originally scheduled for September 25, but postponed).

Enter the National Transplant Assistance Fund, a non-profit that helps familes to raise money for uninsured medical expenses related to transplation. Sounds fabulous, right?

Apparently not, if as of the end of November, less than two months after the surgery, the two sides are no longer speaking – over the issue of money.

The media loves to titter at the idea of a person donating an organ to a stranger, but herein lies the problem. The donor has no connection to the recipient whatsoever, no patience, no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt. So when the donor has difficulties of any kind related to the transplant, they are more apt to blame the recipient than they would if it was a friend or family member. They are much more inclined to resent the recipient for whatever complications or suffering they endure.

Theoretically, there is an evaluation process a prospective donor must endure before the transplant can take place. While much of it has to do with the donor’s physical condition, there is a meeting with a social worker and a transplant coordinator to discuss any potential financial and psychological issues. Not to say that a single parent should automatically be discounted as a donor, but there are pragmatic things to consider:

1. Her income was not that substantial to begin with, so stopping the flow, even for a short period of time, was a hardship.

2. What was her support network? Since she was so relying on the money from the fundraisers and NTAF, her family was either unable or unwilling to help her through her recovery.

Combine that with the fact that the recipient’s family had one wage earner, the recipient himself; therefore they needed considerable financial assistance too – why was this woman approved as a donor? Shouldn’t someone have voiced some concern over these potential pitfalls?

There are transplant centers who will not consider ‘stranger donors’ and this is a small example of why. The extreme organ shortage in the U.S. is forcing hospitals to expand thier criteria, but every increment increases the possibility of negative consequences.

And these NH folks are not alone. Here’s another example of someone who donated to a stranger and didn’t exactly receive a ‘happy ending’…She’s right when she says “Once it became known that there had been major problems no one wanted to talk to me anymore. I was the (not so) small percent that no one wants to admit to.”

Earler article about this case:
A total stranger’s totally selfless Act

3 replies on “When Money Gets Involved”

This whole question of money, especially the financial burden of not being able to work seems to be something from my limited exposure that the transplant community doesn’t want to talk about. Everyone is so on their high horse about not anything even slightly smelling of paying for organs that they avoid it.

And as you know my personal experience was that the hospital was much more concerned about covering their legal ass than giving good counsel. In fact I never got to meet a financial coordinator.

On the other hand, I think that once a person starts down the path of donating, you start to close things out. I can remember a lot of comments related to money, recuperation time, and pain that I just wasn’t ready to listen to or process because if I did it was going to knock me off of my resolve.

To be fair, my definition of meeting with a ‘financial counselor’ was a small cubicle in the midst of the waiting area of the transplant desk wherein some woman handed me a laminated card with my sister’s insurance information on it and told me to present whenever someone asked me for ‘my’ insurance info.

The other financial issues, time off work, etc. were actually broached by the social worker, who was a bit more insistent (and should’ve been).

You’re right that folks tend to ‘zone out’ or ‘gloss over’ when they’ve made the decision to donate, which is why, imo, the professional in charge of such things needs to stress them. Yes, organs are in short supply, and yes, folks will die if they don’t get them, but that does not justify omitting or minimizing ‘real’ issues in order to make that transplant occur.

Nothing good will come of that, as we can clearly see.

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