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Archive for the ‘Organ transplant ethics’ Category

U.S. Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) and Representative Joe Courtney (D- CT) have introduced legislation to prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions in group health plans and in health insurance coverage for groups and individuals.  For living organ donors, this is important news, because health insurance plans can and do consider living donation to be an “pre-existing condition” that may impact a donor’s ability to secure health insurance and the cost of premiums.

Called the Pre-Existing Condition Patient Protection Act of 2009, the legislation is being supported by a who’s who list of organ-transplant-related non-profits:  The National Kidney Foundation, The American Society of Transplant Surgeons, NATCO – the Organization for Transplant Professionals, and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). 

To get informed, check out govtrack.us, where you can read the full text of the bill, track its movement through the House and Senate and read the floor speeches made about it.  Here are the links directly to the House and Senate versions:

If you wish to write your Congressional representatives, you can look them up at www.senate.gov and writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml, both of which offer convenient email forms as well as mail and fax information.

For those who want to support the legislation, Transplant Alliance offers this sample letter:

(Date)
The Honorable (add Senator’s full name)
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC

Re: Preexisting Condition Patient Protection Act of 2009

Dear Senator (add Senator’s name)

(I or your organization) request that you support the Act introduced by
Congressman Joe Courtney, and Senator John Rockefeller titled
“Preexisting Condition Patient Protection Act of 2009”. This Act will
prohibit preexisting condition exclusions in group health plans and
health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets, including
live organ donation. It will remove barriers to live organ donation by
eliminating the fear of losing access to affordable private health care
insurance when becoming a live organ donor.

There are currently over 109,000 people on the nation’s waiting lists
for donor organs and over 6,000 Americans die each year waiting for a
donated organ. We must to do what we can to increase live organ
donation. Pre-existing condition exclusions dramatically increase the
cost of health insurance for these altruistic live donors, or have the
impact of rendering the person uninsurable altogether. The fear of
losing access to affordable health care insurance can be a major barrier
to potential live organ donors when contemplating this gift of life.

Live organ donors are a very low health care risk. It is time that the
federal government prohibits private health insurers and self-insured
health plans from treating live organ donors as having a pre-existing
condition. Removing live organ donation as a pre-existing condition is
a necessary component of health care reform.

(you or your organizations name here) appreciate(s) your consideration
of this request to support this Act that will prohibit live organ
donation from being considered a preexisting conditions. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Name
Title
Organization
Address

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This terrific and thoughtful blog post is WAAAAY over my non-math-oriented head, but I enjoyed reading it … so I’m sure any of you who are more mathematically inclined will enjoy it even more.

The blogger writes about a married couple — mathemetician Sommer Gentry and Johns Hopkins transplant surgeon Dorry Segey — who were principal researchers in a paper about how a mathematic algorithm might be applied to pairing thousands of potential donors with thousands of potential kidney recipients in a giant, graceful swap.  The paper they wrote suggests that such a mathematical solution could be a major part of the solution to the organ shortage for kidney recipients, provided it is paired with the appropriate controls to protect social justice and other sociological issues.  (At least, I think that’s what it said! :))

Wow.  This idea might be worth cracking out my old algebra book to understand better!

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Transplant surgeons “tweeting” from the operating room during kidney surgery?  I LOVE technology!

(For those of you not hip to Millenial lingo, “tweeting” means posting brief updates to Twitter.)  Thanks, Meghan, for sending me the link!

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My good friend Mindy, who’s also a Greatest Gift Foundation board member, is vegan, so she was delighted to see in this one excellent blog post a woman’s personal account that ties a vegan, pro-animal rights lifestyle with her other favorite topic, living organ donation. 

I noted with interest that the author, living kidney donor Hillary Rettig, was advised not to eat too much protein going forward so as not to strain the remaining kidney. I had not heard that before — had any of you who have given a kidney?

By far my favorite paragraph in Hillary’s essay is the very last one, which I’m pinning up in my office as an ongoing source of a smile.

Sometimes, I find myself wondering what my kidney is up to at the moment. “I wonder if it’s walking by the pond.” “I wonder if it’s working at the vet clinic.” “I wonder if it’s watching bad TV.” I guess I’ve come to think of it as being like a dog I gave up for adoption. I don’t wonder if it’s happy, though, because I know that if any kidney is happy, mine is — having found its “Mr. Right,” an amazing being who shares its values and is committed to helping keep other amazing beings alive and happy.

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If you care to follow the debate on whether living organ donors should be compensated as a part of the solution to the organ shortage, you are bound to find a steady supply of fodder.  It is everywhere lately, it seems —in ill-researched blog posts, in contentious radio shows hosted by blow-hards, in newspaper op-ed columns and hastily written letters to the editor, on righteous “about us” pages of new pro-compensation non-profits, and in high-brow magazines like the Economist (where writers tend to act responsibly).

Sally Satel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.) has joined the fray with this January 30  article for The American, arguing in favor of donor compensation. Warning: wear your thinking cap when you read.  Satel uses classic logical structure and 25-cent vocabulary words to make her point.  It’s tougher than your average blog entry to follow, and refreshingly worth it. 

Yours, Altrustically…

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