In the United States, citizens offer their Commander In Chief various liberties. We pull over as his motorcade fills the streets, we agree to be patted down or searched before the President enters a room, and we fund a lifetime pension for his service. However, a recent television episode of the Netflix favorite, House Of Cards, depicts the President (played by Kevin Spacey) in need of an Organ Transplant. He is able to basically jump the list and get his desired organ while a man he leaped over in the line dies. It leaves the viewer speechless, frustrated, annoyed, and asking, "Can a president really jump the line for an Organ Transplant?"
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There is constantly conspiracies in the Chronic Kidney Disease Community specifically, and the Organ Transplant Community in general, which suggest that the rich and powerful get preferential treatment when it comes to the Transplant Allocation System. The health website, Statnews.com, explored the real life scenario of this actually occurring and found that "According to the rules: no." In fact in real life, such a ploy would be highly illegal and even impossible.
After interviewing several Healthcare Professionals and leaders in the field who said basically the same thing, Statnews.com was able to identify some interesting facts which help Chronic Kidney Disease patients and others waiting for an Organ Transplant better understand the selection process:
1.) The process by which patients are chosen for transplants is actually determined by a computer algorithm. That system has no clue whether the recipient is the President of the United States or a janitor, and it is designed to be impenetrable to tampering. Anne Paschke (Spokeswoman for the United Network for Organ Sharing) said, “The computer would have no idea that he was the president, just like it has no idea how rich and famous someone else is."
2.) You cannot rig the system or know how close you are to the top of the list. The waiting list is also under intense security. The United Network for Organ Sharing (Nonprofit organization which coordinates U.S. organ transplant activities) has an in-house Computer Security team. Doctors can only input data for their individual patients. The agency audits every single transplant performed to make sure the proper procedures were followed.
3.) In terms of determining who gets an organ, some of the determinants include: Urgency (how likely is a patient to die without a transplant), compatibility of the donor and recipient, and their geographic proximity to each other.
As with most things, there is a catch. It relates to the geographic criteria. “There’s a lot of geographic disparity. That’s the two-tiered thing that does exist right now,” said Dr. Ryutaro Hirose (University of California, San Francisco). Hence, since transplants are geographically based, wealthier, affluent patients can afford to travel across the country in order to help them get a transplant faster. For instance, Steve Jobs relocated to Tennessee for a Liver Transplant in 2009. That is not really an option for patients with less financial support.
Another big benefit that well known and powerful Chronic Kidney Disease patients have is fame. When Lamar Odom was thought to need a Kidney Transplant after an unfortunate drug overdose, there was a flood of altruistic living kidney donors who were prepared to donate before he was even placed on the waiting list.
Fortunately, Social Media is becoming a great place for everyone in need of a Kidney or Organ Transplant to share their stories and connect with kindhearted donors. This is helping many patients who are not rich or famous find their matches in record time as opposed to waiting on the Kidney Transplant List (5 to 7 year wait times). If you need help effectively sharing your story then click here and sign up for the KidneyBuzz.com Find A Kidney Donor Program.
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