Tennessee: Advertising for organ donors

Tennessee: Advertising for organ donors

May 3rd, 2009 by Jacqueline Koch in News

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."