Mind Matters: Giving more than a token gesture

Into the medical future: Someday, medical authorities may loosen the reins and regulations on kidney donations to increase the number of donations.

Into the medical future: Someday, medical authorities may loosen the reins and regulations on kidney donations to increase the number of donations.

The last time I donated blood, I saw inside the Red Cross building a photo of a retired ethics professor who had donated 125 times. That is a lot of blood.

Those donations show a good application of ethics – helping others altruistically.

Some people go even farther in altruistic actions. In the past few years, individuals in Australia, the UK and the USA have donated one of their two kidneys to a complete stranger. The donee is usually someone who has been on dialysis for years and is close to death.

The donation gives the person a good chance to live until old age. The donor learns nothing about the person who receives the kidney, and the two never meet.

Most Aussies do not even know about the possibility of donating a kidney to a desperate stranger. Hence, there are no more than a few donations here in a year.

I was surprised to learn that my ageing kidneys may not be too old for donation.

Not knowing anything about the donee may also limit the number of donors. We do not want to donate a kidney to someone we might consider unworthy.

In the UK, some individuals dying from kidney failure advertise for donors. Tissue matches play a role in donation, so we cannot donate to just anyone. Also, the donor must be healthy and have two working kidneys.

I was surprised to learn that my ageing kidneys may not be too old for donation.

Does donating involve risks? Yes, because it involves major surgery. However, a person can live fine and remain healthy with one kidney.

Several years ago, it was impossible to donate a kidney to a stranger. Medical authorities assumed that anyone willing to do that must be mentally ill.

That assumption is gone now, but the donation centre still evaluates the mental health of possible donors.

Someday, medical authorities may loosen the reins on donations and let potential donors have a bit of information about potential donees. The donors might even have a modicum of say in who receives their kidney. The number of donations could skyrocket.

Governments make it illegal for a person to sell his or her kidney. I wonder whether that rule will ever change. Would you vote to allow the sale of kidneys, if the government regulated the process?

I salute the individuals who donate a kidney to a dying stranger.

Their altruism and courage show the most admirable characteristics of humans.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop