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Should age determine who gets a kidney transplant?

Posted Jun 18 2009 1:51pm
Should age determine who gets a kidney transplant? That's the question asked by the Chicago Tribune in a story about the United Network for Organ Sharing's proposed changes to the rules it uses to allocate kidneys recovered from deceased donors.

UNOS has proposed allocating kidneys in a way that would maximize the number of extra years lived by kidney transplant recipients.

Does it make sense to give a kidney to a 75-year-old person with a limited life expectancy when you could give it to a 35-year-old person who is likely to live a whole lot longer? Reasonable people will disagree on this question.

UNOS' proposal is controversial. But any change to UNOS' rules will be controversial, because any change will mean more transplants for some groups and fewer transplants for others.

So why not change organ allocation rules in a way that will increase the number of organs donated? Allocating fewer organs to old people won't increase the number of organ donors. Allocating fewer organs to non-donors will.

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