published Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Tennessee: Advertising for organ donors

by Jacqueline Koch
Audio clip

M. Judd Dean

If M. Judd Dean wanted to buy a kidney, he would have done so six years ago.

But the Ooltewah man and Vietnam veteran wants a kidney transplant legally. So he promises nothing to anyone who sees his online ad for a kidney.

“I just told him I couldn’t give him no monies or do him no favors,” Mr. Dean said of a potential donor who answered his ad.

Mr. Dean, 59, who has been on dialysis for six years and the national transplant list for more than one, is among a growing number of people using the Internet to find organ donors.

General classified sites, as well as sites designed specifically to facilitate matches between donor and recipient, allow those in need of organs to bypass the national transplant waiting list.

As of Friday, nearly 102,000 people were candidates on the waiting list nationwide, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. About 2,000 of those are from Tennessee.

Last year, more than 16,000 people nationwide received kidney transplants. Nearly 80,000 are on the waiting list for a kidney, according to UNOS.

Mr. Dean’s niece posted an ad on Craigslist on April 4, asking anyone interested in donating a kidney to call Mr. Dean. Doctors have said Mr. Dean’s kidneys are failing as a results of smoking, but he maintains the problems are a result of Agent Orange he came in contact with as a soldier in Vietnam.

So far, he’s received a call from a man in India wanting money for a plane ticket to the States for the transplant — “he would have gotten here and turned and run,” Mr. Dean said — and a truck driver from Chattanooga.

He met with the trucker last week. If the man’s blood type matches Mr. Dean’s, he could be set for a transplant soon in Birmingham, Ala., he said.

Erlanger hospital does not accept “Good Samaritan” cases, or transplants from strangers, but will refer recipients to hospitals that do accept them, said Jackie Smith, the hospital’s transplant manager. If the donor blackmailed a recipient or bilked him or her for money, the hospital could be held liable for not fully evaluating the psychological state of both parties, she said.

“There’s a lot of ethical issues involved in that,” Ms. Smith said. “But if a friend wants to donate a kidney to them, as long as there’s some type of emotional connection between the recipient and donor, we’ll evaluate them.”

The National Kidney Foundation encourages the use of the national transplant list, which accepts organs only from deceased people, according to a statement provided by the foundation.

“Internet sites have arisen to match recipients with nondirected living donors,” the statement reads. “Some of these Web sites require a registration fee for a potential recipient to be listed. Such sites may commercialize the donation process. The National Kidney Foundation is concerned that these Web sites may undermine U.S. policy which prohibits the buying and selling of organs.”

Even if the ad doesn’t work out for Mr. Dean, he’s hopeful the waiting list will.

“I wish less people would carry good organs to the grave with them,” he said. “The people that donate to us that are sick, we honestly appreciate it from the heart.”

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Your story about Judd Dean highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

Over half of the 100,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 12,000 members at this writing, including 399 members in Tennessee.

Please contact me - Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers - if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you're interested. My email address is My phone number is 615-351-8622.

May 4, 2009 at 1:08 p.m.
Philvs said...

It would be a stretch to call Lifesharers an organ donor "network". It is more like an organ donor club. Lifesharers and Mr. Undis have no credibility in the organ/tissue donation community.

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) board of directors, the UNOS Ethics Committee and the Health Resources Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruled back in 2003 that Mr. Undis' Lifesharer scheme, if implemented, would undermine the current system of organ allocation, and that it doesn't appropriately fit the criteria for "directed donation", the policy that is the foundation of Lifesharers existence.

Mr. Undis continues to mislead his membership about their chances of receiving a transplant utilizing the Lifesharer method; and he suggests that creating two waiting lists, one for those who have themselves registered as donors, and another for those who have not, would increase the number of registered donors. Fear of missing out on a chance for a lifesaving organ, should it become necessary, is not the way to motivate Americans to register as donors. People who want to be donors should go to to find out how they should register to be a donor in their state.

Mr. Undis fails to mention that it has taken him more than six years to sign up the 12,000 who have joined his "organ donor club" to give themselves an advantage, while legitimate organ recovery organizations around the country have registered almost 80 million Americans who want to be donors because it's the right thing to do.

Phil Van Stavern Director of Communications LifeShare Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma

May 4, 2009 at 5:58 p.m.
livingdonor101 said...

What I find distasteful about publically soliciting for a living donor is that neither the recipient, the well-intended family of the recipient or the sites facilitating such matches are taking responsibility for what they asking a stranger to do.

Living donors can suffer from bleeding, blood clots, intestinal binding, testicular swelling, hernias, chronic fatigue, hypertension, reduced adrenal gland function, and severely reduced kidney function, just to name a few.

Some LDs have ended up on the waiting list themselves. (think the transplant centers tell potential donor this?)

LDs suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms, yet transplant centers offer NO aftercare or support. Their priority is only to 'heal the sick patient'- the recipient. The media and public perception, meanwhile is that every transplant is successful (not true) and every living donor goes on to live a perfectly 'normal' life.

It's time we tell the truth:>

(and thanks Mr. Van Stavern)


Following the 2003 ruling Mr. Van Stavern mentioned, LifeSharers made significant changes to our operating methods. As a result of these changes, LifeSharers is now legal under federal law and under the laws of all 50 states.

The organ transplant bureaucracy doesn't want you to be able to donate your organs to other organ donors. They want to decide who gets your organs. Under their rules, there is about a 50-50 chance your organs will be given to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die. That's not fair, and you don't have to put up with it.

If you want registered organ donors to receive your gift of life, please join LifeSharers. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88.

May 10, 2009 at 9:01 a.m.
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