Looking Inside the Growing System of Organ Swapping

Khryss | Published 2017-10-03 04:57

Would you exchange your kidney with a transplant voucher for your loved one?

More than 93,000 people in the US today are waiting for a kidney. Of this, 12 die waiting (in vain) every day. Howard Broadman, a former judge in California, was aware of this problem. So, he had himself prepared for a future kidney transplant for his 4-year-old grandson Quinn Gerlach, who has a chronic kidney disease. But Quinn's body isn't ready yet and the transplant would take place within the far next decade or two.

“I know Quinn will eventually need a transplant, but by the time he’s ready, I’ll be too old to give him one of my kidneys,” says Broadman. At first he considered just donating the kidney to other people and be all altruistic. “But then I started thinking ‘this is bullshit – I should get something for this’.”

And that, my friends, is how he invented the concept of the world’s first voucher system for people who donate kidneys.

He then approached the University of California, Los Angeles and asked if he could have a voucher for his grandson's future transplant in exchange of donating his kidney to someone else now. UCLA surgeon Jeffrey Veale approved, and established a voucher scheme of which Broadman became the first donor in 2014.

Upon analyzing, they found that giving US donors transplant coupons they can give to loved ones in need truly encouraged more people to donate and, in turn, has boosted the kidney donations. The voucher, however, doesn't guarantee a kidney transplant but instead gives a person high priority.

“If only a fraction of the 40 million chronic kidney disease patients in the US had a donor like Judge Broadman, then tens of thousands of high-quality organs would enter the system,” says Veale. “For the first time in history we could actually start reducing the waiting list.”



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