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Did Natalie Cole Receive a Kidney Transplant Because She is a Celebrity?

Posted Jun 03 2009 9:43am

We always like to take the opportunity to address myths head on here at the DLI blog.

Natalie Cole’s recent kidney transplant has churned up a host of media buzz regarding whether “rich and famous” people get priority if they are waiting for an organ transplant . Merv Shepard recently addressed the topic over on his blog and we also asked for some feedback from Dave Bosch, director of communications at Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network to get the facts straight and educate others on the organ allocation process.


Dave Bosch

Dave Bosch

The news that Natalie Cole received a lifesaving kidney transplant in May is something to celebrate. Unfortunately, this news did not come without controversy. I’ve heard from a number of people – and read more than a few blog postings – that suggest she received her transplant because she is rich and famous.

I’d like to add my perspective to help set the record straight. First of all, Natalie Cole received the gift of a directed donation. In this case, one family generously agreed to donate organs to people in need of a lifesaving transplant. Having heard of Ms. Cole’s need for a kidney, the family asked that one of their loved one’s kidneys be transplanted to Ms. Cole if they were a match.

So now let’s address the common misconception that wealthy or famous people get priority for organs. This is simply not true.

The fact is that a national computer system and strict federal, regional and local systems are in place to ensure ethical and equitable distribution of organs. Organs are allocated based on the recipient’s blood type, body size, medical urgency, length of time on the waiting list. Race, gender, age, income or celebrity status arenever considered when organs are allocated.

Consider that there are more than 75 transplants performed every day. Do you hear about all of those? Of course not, but each of those lifesaving transplants were no less important. Natalie Cole did not get her transplant because she is a celebrity, the media covered it because she is a celebrity.

So now that we’ve explained the facts, let’s focus on the real issue: the lack of available organs. You can change that. Take a moment and register to be a donor. And then share your decision with at least two friends or family members by sending them the link ( or if you’re not from Illinois) and encourage them to register too.


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