Dynamist Blog

Kidney Blogging, Cont'd

As you may have read, a Dutch network is about to premiere a new reality show in which contestants vie for a kidney from an otherwise dying woman. (How she qualifies medically as a kidney donor is beyond me.) Writing at HuffPo, Sally Satel weighs in:

It's crazy alright. And, yes, sick and shocking. But despite my discomfort, I'm for it. Sensationalism is a powerful way to call attention to the desperate shortage of kidneys and to the tens of thousands of needless deaths each year that occur all over the world because not enough altruistic donors step forward.

Indeed, the very idea behind the De Grote Donorshow (The Big Donor Show) is to shine a spotlight on the plight of patients who need a kidney. The show is intended as a tribute to the founder of the network -- Bart de Graaff --who died in 2002 at age 35 because he could not survive the years-long wait for a new kidney.

"We think that is disastrous," said the BNN chairman Laurens Drillach to the BBC, "so we are acting in a shocking way to bring attention to the problem."

It's about time somebody with some clout got angry about this egregious situation. Kidney patients need ACT-UP. Instead, they've got the way-too-complacent National Kidney Foundation, an organization more for doctors than patients.

g1060ad910281e6dd337955a7768fa323798af14Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Lisa Cunningham has died. She's the woman Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center told it would refuse to transplant if she found a kidney donor through local press coverage. After nasty press, some of it from me, the hospital changed its policy. Rob Haneisen of the Metro West Daily News, who first covered her story, reported on her death:

Cunningham died because she was very sick, and in the end the right donor with the correct tissue match did not come forward to save her.

"Some patients can be on dialysis for many years and do well and others have a more malignant course in a sense," said Spiegel, Cunningham's nephrologist. "She just never did well on dialysis. Every aspect of her care on dialysis was difficult, which is why we were hoping a transplant would come her way."

Lisa Cunningham was 40 years old. She left a 10-year-old son.

UPDATE: Tim Worstall is "entirely disgusted" by The Big Donor Show, but not for the usual reasons.

UPDATE 2: Kidney donor Tom Simon adds his take at KidneyChronicles, making this very good point: "I don't understand why it is part of the story-line that the donor is dying of a brain tumor. It creates the incorrect impression that living with one kidney is a risky or dangerous proposition, and only someone who is going to die anyway should even consider it."

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