The Ultimate Gift of
Organ transplantation is the one of the most outstanding
achievements of modern medicine. It prolongs life and improves
the quality of life for the majority of patients so they can
live a full life and pursue their interests and life goals.
It is, however, only possible with the participation of another
human being providing the healthy organ.
The ability to diagnose death by neurologic criteria
provided the opportunity to recover functioning organs from
deceased donors. Unfortunately, cultural and social advances
have lagged far behind scientific advances, and only about
50 percent of the families of the deceased who may be appropriate
donors give their permission for removal of the organs and
tissues for transplantation. Although all the major religions
have endorsed the act of saving lives through organ donation,
many myths and misconceptions abound that continue to result
in the wastage of these priceless human organs. In the U.S.
alone, six to eight patients die each day while waiting for
more than 300,000 patients with end-stage kidney disease
on maintenance dialysis in this country, and the number keeps
increasing at a rate of approximately 8 percent per year.
With the recognition that a kidney transplant gives 10 extra
years of life, the demand for kidneys has escalated. Fortunately
most of us are blessed with two kidneys, and parting with
one to help another human being does not in any way impair
the health and well being of the donor, nor does it shorten
life. The challenges inherent with hospitalization, surgical
pain and recuperation have all immensely improved with the
laparoscopic technique of kidney removal. With these facts
becoming more widely known, living donation of kidneys is being
embraced by an increasing number of family and friends of prospective
recipients. I am often asked, “... If we need only one
kidney why do we have two?” In response to that question,
I cannot help but think that God gave us two kidneys so that
we can donate one to someone we care for, someone in need.
the extremely low risk of living kidney donation, when someone
volunteers to donate to any patient on the list who has the
closest match and has been waiting the longest, without receiving
any reward in return, it is truly an altruistic act. It is
a most extraordinary expression of the finest of human behaviors.
Such a gift outclasses the proverbial “Gift of the Magi” and
is the ultimate gift of life.#
M. H. Butt, M.D. is Professor of Surgery, New York Medical
College & Director of Transplantation
and Vascular Surgery Services, Westchester Medical Center.