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medical_imperialism

Posted Jul 31 2009 11:54am

0,,5915909,00 Further to my post introducing research on Good Samaritan websites comes this article from the Melbourne Herald Sun concerning an Australian woman paying a Filipino man AUD $65,000 for his kidney.

Dialysis is a tough road to travel.  My wife and i did it for 5 years, and I, like all other renal transplant patients, still have it hovering over our heads (at least in the background, if I might mix my metaphors).

Different people react to this situation in different ways, and its not for me to judge the opinions of others and the actions of others (unless these actions are wrong).

But I sincerely believe, in my humble opinion, that this lady has this wrong.

This belief comes from the following:

  • It is the worst type of medical imperialism to wave a roll of cash before a person in exchange for their kidney.  This is not an equal power relationship.  The bloke would no doubt do anything to put food on his family's table, to the point of doing this.
  • Judgements about suitability of donation should be made purely on the basis of medical reasons, entirely free of other considerations - such as ability to buy or ability to sell.  This is why I have such an issue with the current form of health insurance in the USA - apart from it being so utterly unjust to so many people, it also interferes with the purely medical decisions needed to allocate donor organs.

In justifying this position, this lady is also inadvertently sprerading misconceptions about dialysis.

The article states that her "... health has deteriorated after three years of gruelling dialysis."  (I assume the article refers to haemo-dialysis, but it is not clear.)  If this is so, then she should be talking closely to her doctors because usually a person can go along quite well on dialysis. 

And Australia has a very low mortality rate for dialysis patients.

And quite apart from this, the last thing a prospective dialysis patient needs is to be told inaccurate stories of "slow death" on dialysis.

Finally the lady is quoted in the article as saying

[...] you have to understand you can't judge me because if you were in my situation you would do exactly what I am doing.

Well, my wife and I are 2 people who had 5 years to do what she is doing and we chose not to do so.

  • Image credit:  picture of donor Alex Sarip by Michael Sarini, published in HeraldSun.com.au on 2nd March 2008
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