Reader Mail

Organs on the Internet

The elusive search for live organ donors: a special exchange. Also: Filling stations in the air. Arlen vs. Alberto. Plus: Turning the corner on turning the other cheek.

7.30.07

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IN DEFENSE OF MATCHING DONORS
Re: Lawrence Henry's An Update on Transplant:

As an FBI Special Agent with 12 years of service, mostly in the Counterterrorism field, imagine my surprise to log onto The American Spectator website and read Lawrence Henry's weekly column calling me a smarmy, sanctimonious liberal of questionable conscience because of my decision to donate a kidney to a fellow law enforcement professional I met via the website Matchingdonors.com.

In his piece, Mr. Henry recounts his own negative experience with Matchingdonors.com that led him to the conclusion that donating a kidney via an Internet-facilitated match is morally objectionable. I can't help but wonder if his opinion would have been different had he achieved positive results after he spent his week begging strangers for a kidney on the web. Furthermore, I fail to see the moral distinction between Mr. Henry appealing publicly to strangers within his church congregation and my recipient, Brenda, making her appeal to a larger audience of strangers via the web.

The fact that Mr. Henry failed in his attempts to successfully procure a kidney via Matchingdonors.com should be no surprise as he only gave it a week's worth of effort. Brenda's profile remained on the site for two years before I stepped up to help. Part of that may have been due to her having one of those hard-to-match blood types Mr. Henry cited in his piece.

The other factor is that living "stranger" kidney donations are very rare. Less than 100 individuals in America will step forward this year to donate kidneys to complete strangers. During the three-year history of Matchingdonors.com, the site has facilitated less than 50 kidney donations at a time where over 90,000 Americans await transplants. This tiny niche of the transplant field is hardly worth all this ethical hand-wringing when the number of lives being saved is relatively paltry.

I share Mr. Henry's concerns with the expensive price tag associated with a lifetime membership to Matchingdonors.com. The site's administrators (with whom I have no affiliation) informed me that they are a non-profit entity operating at a loss, yet they are committed to working with those in need by waiving fees or negotiating payment plans based upon the customer's financial means. Personally, I think a better option would be for the United States to follow the lead of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, which recently inked a deal with Matchingdonors.com to put 100% of the country's organ transplant waiting list on the site.

Mr. Henry is also right in his public policy analysis regarding the need to compensate living organ donors and switch to a "presumed consent" system for cadaver donors. Curing diabetes would also be a big help. However, his vitriol toward Internet organ matching and those of us who've volunteered to help is misguided and more than a little bizarre.

The best argument in favor of Matchingdonors.com is Conservative to the core: it's my kidney, and I'll give it to whomever I damn well please. Would Mr. Henry police my charitable financial giving with the same zeal that he wishes living organ donations to be regulated?

Finally, I wish Mr. Henry best of luck with his forthcoming third kidney transplant. He indicated it will most likely be a paired or swap donation, another innovative solution to deadly kidney donor shortages. I only hope that the stranger whose kidney he receives is treated fairly and not subjected to name-calling in public forums.
-- Tom Simon
(Mr. Simon is an FBI Special Agent in Chicago and a living kidney donor His experiences as a living donor are recounted at www.kidneychronicles.blogspot.com. He can be reached at simonhere at mail dot com.)

Lawrence Henry recently wrote an article entitled "An Update on Transplant" and quickly began to berate an altruistic live kidney donor and the non-profit organization that helped him and the kidney recipient meet. Matchingdonors.com gives patients in need of a kidney transplant an active way to find an amazing live donor. At this time there are over 70,000 people in the United States languishing on the national organ waiting list which is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) -- a government contracted organization. When a deceased organ donor becomes available UNOS decides where it will go. Matchingdonors.com brings new live organ donors into the current system without interfering with UNOS. Giving patients an alternative and the freedom to take control of their own health care instead of waiting for a government program hardly seems "liberal" to me.

There are many wonderful, giving people in the world interested in being live organ donors -- we cannot ignore them or ridicule them for the great gift they are giving to another person in need. This is a gift of love, not of prejudice. Deciding who receives your gift is one of the most important decisions a live donor will ever make. Is it wrong for someone to only consider donating a kidney to a family member? We decide to donate our time or our money on people or organizations that we are drawn to. There are any number of reasons why we direct our donations as we do.

I find Mr. Henry's article not only factually incorrect but also hypocritical. There are no "slick phone sales people" at Matchingdonors. In fact, most of the patients are on for free. Mr. Henry writes if someone does not donate to the sickest person on the list "that sickest person is left to die." Wow! If that is true then we should not allow family members to become live organ donors unless their relative is next on the "list." Their brother or sister should wait for the government program to decide who they should donate to. When new donor organs are brought into the system everyone benefits because the national waiting list will shift downward. As Mr. Henry points out the taxpayers will also benefit from more transplants and less dialysis.

The hypocrisy of Mr. Henry shines for all to see when he mentions his "old pal" urging him to find someone who will donate to him. Is his old pal next on the national list? Is it fair for a savvy guy like Mr. Henry to "multilist" by registering in Florida as well as Massachusetts? I bet most patients don't realize you can try to trump the system in this way. The idea of "selling organs" which is endorsed in his article doesn't sound like the best way to help the "sickest person" either.

End stage renal disease doesn't care whether you are liberal or conservative. There are plenty of both on the list. Matchingdonors.com states very clearly that it is absolutely illegal for any financial benefit in organ donation. We do not believe in organ trafficking. We have recently helped match our 51st patient this week and look forward to helping many more people waiting on the growing national list find someone willing to donate the ultimate gift of life.
-- Dr. Jeremiah J. Lowney
Co-founder, Matchingdonors.com

Mr. Henry's argument for government encouraging transplants for End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) is a solid one; it is based on logic and cost and benefit analysis. The compelling reason for government to be involved in the issue of organ transplants is cogent and clear, but as if often the case when one wants to force an issue, not debate its value, one avoids reasoning by simplifying the issues; one resorts to using "ought," "must" or "should." Mr. Henry switches from logic to hectoring when it comes to his pet issue, voluntary organ donations. (In this section of his article, he uses "ought" four times and adds a "should" for good measure.)

Regarding reimbursement for "Good Samaritan" donors, arguments have been made that selling and buying of tissue of and from a living donor is moral and permissible. Converslyl, many religious bodies have made arguments against said issues. (Libertarians, on general principle, fall into the former camp.) But to ignore all argument on the issue with a simple, "First, there ought to" is rather dismissive of all relevant, preceding arguments. Readers of AmSpec have come to expect more from their writers.

On the issue of "presumed consent" Mr. Henry offers a diatribe, not an argument. He blithely dismisses all who may have legitimate objections to "presumed consent" as "an irreducible population of idiots." Not the most illuminating strike. Further, he looks to reinforce his position by citing Portugal and Italy as models for efficiency. Maybe Mr. Henry does not read the very magazine for which he writes; generally, AmSpec and its readers are against the European socialized medicine models; yes, they do perform many tasks well but the moral, economic and social costs are too great. We are not allowed to order social programs ala carte; if we import one method from the European market, we risk bringing in the entire program. It is not fear of "Frankenstein-like" doctors or being turned "into a dugout canoe" that keeps most people from donating organs. People have legitimate reasons to have their bodies treated as sacrosanct. Lastly the "presume consent" is exactly that, presumption. If I choose to leave my car unlocked, it may be folly, but that does not imply in any way that passerby are welcome to the contents of my vehicle. If I do not choose to sign consent to my body when I am dead, no consent is given.

As civilized people, especially fellow libertarians, we can have heated debates and discussion; we do not need to be in agreement on every issue, but once we start "should"ing on each other, we are no longer talking to each other but past each other.
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

Lawrence Henry replies:
Interesting! The Tom Simon as presented in his letter to TAS scarcely resembles the Tom Simon of the Chicago Tribune op-ed. Being a law enforcement officer seems very important to him, yet the Trib saw no reason to mention it. Maybe they edited it out?

Mr. Simon's moral bragging still rubs me the wrong way.

And to Dr. Lowney, I apologize. I shouldn't have called his salesman "slick." I should have said "aggressive."

No, Dr. Lowney, my old pal is not next on the "national list" -- whatever that's supposed to mean. I fail to see your point. My friend, knowing his second kidney was failing, solicited donations from among people he knew, and with whom he had some connection, and he urged me to do the same -- which, till then, I had not done. This scarcely compares to setting up the equivalent of an Internet dating service for organ donations. I stand by my characterization of Matchingdonors.com as an Internet tease. My own transplant center will not accept donations from strangers. After my experience with Matchingdonors.com and with another Internet site a couple of years ago, I can understand why.

As for "gaming the system" by double registering in other locales, I found out about it through my dialysis center, where a number of people have done it. In my experience, everybody knows there are some regions that transplant faster than others.

Mr. Kessel conveniently ignores that organ transplant is currently controlled by the government through the National Network for Organ Sharing. As I said in my column, like it or not, this is already public policy. I believe Al Gore wrote the law as a Senator -- of all people. I merely propose a number of improvements in law from that point of view.

As for Mr. Kessel's objections to presumed consent, if he were to die in the course of a crime, his body would be autopsied. What's the difference?

FIILL 'ER UP
Re: The "Competitors in Arms" letter in Reader Mail's In the Tanker:

Letters in response to Quin Hillyer's "Refueling a Political Fire" lament the loss of many classic American aircraft manufacturers through consolidation, liquidation and shifting business models. Others want to internationalize competition and award the contract to the best bid based on cost and performance. The question neither has asked is why the United States Air Force wants or needs to own a tanker aircraft in the first place. The original concept of leasing was undoubtedly the right way to go, leaving aside the impropriety of the specific leasing deal. A tanker aircraft does little other than fly around in circles and pump fuel to other aircraft. It may also serve secondarily as a communications relay and cargo aircraft. It is, in fact, a commercial aircraft equipped with some specialized mission equipment, much of which is in fact palletized and can therefore be installed on almost any suitable airframe.

When the government buys an aircraft, it becomes responsible for all the costs of ownership -- routine maintenance, major overhauls, upgrades and modifications, operating costs, and ultimately disposal. To do this, the government sets up an entire logistic system (there is one for each specific aircraft in the military inventory), and pays to keep it around until the aircraft is retired. If, on the other hand, the government actually did lease the aircraft, then those costs would be borne by the leaser, with the government responsible only for fuel, oil, and other fluids. When the plane needed an upgrade, the government would give it back to the contractor, who would then supply a new one brought up to standard. When it needed service, it would go to the contractor's facility.

But why stop at leasing the aircraft? Why not outsource the entire tanker function? Many European air forces are moving in this direction, including the RAF (which already leases tanker aircraft). Since refueling is a non-combat support role (except for special operations forces, which work in a different mission environment, and employ totally different aircraft), the plane is really just an airborne filling station, so why not outsource the whole mission? Take bids from various companies not only to supply tanker aircraft, but also to man and operate them on a "power by the hour" basis? Need more tanking support during surge operations? The tanker company brings on some more aircraft and personnel. Peace breaks out, he lays them off. The government merely negotiates the terms of the leasing arrangement, and can now take all the resources needed to support the tanker fleet and redirect it into other critical missions, whether these are air combat, ground attack, reconnaissance, or strategic transport.

With budgets constrained and personnel stretched, the military really needs to consider seriously turning over to the private sector every mission that does not actually require a man in uniform to pull the trigger or make military decisions.
-- Stuart Koehl
Senior Fellow
Johns Hopkins University-SAIS
Center for Transatlantic Relations

ARLEN AND ALBERTO
Re: James David Dickson's Beyond Words:

I, too, do not have a great deal of use for Mr. Gonzales. Not one of the compromises of classified information that damaged our defensive capabilities has been prosecuted, much less competently investigated, judging by the deafening silence from DOJ. The Libby case was a classic perversion of justice. Prosecuting two Border Patrol agents for committing, at most, an administrative violation of procedure while furthering the career of a known Mexican drug dealer is incompetence at its most radiant.

However, I have less use for Arlen Specter (RINO-PA). Of all the errors the Bush Administration has made, saving Specter's bacon in his last election really stands out. It was worse than a blunder. It was a mistake.

How does Mr. Dickson think Mr. Gonzales should comport himself in the face of such onerous thugs as Leahy (who was thrown off the Intelligence Committee for leaking classified information) and Schumer (whose operation when DSC chair illegally accessed Michael Steele's credit records and whose full connection with Special Inquisitor Fitzgerald remains unexplored)? Their motivation is 100 percent political. They want nothing less than the total obliteration of the Bush Administrations from the pages of history. Failing that, they demand nothing less than to have the name Bush synonymous with Nixon. I, for one, believe Mr. Gonzales is entitled to use every weapon and tool at his command in his defense. This is especially true since the precedent (a word so beloved by Specter) for answering questions with parsings and "don't recall" was so thoroughly established by the Clinton Administration.

What I'm really waiting for is for an Administration witness/victim to turn on his or her tormentors and look for the opportunity to respond in the mode of Mae West. When he or she is accused of contempt of Congress, to reply: "Gee, I was trying so hard to hide it."
-- John Jarrell
San Antonio, Texas

The Democrats have launched numerous frivolous investigations into the Bush administration, including the Plame case, wiretapping, U.S. attorney firings, Katrina, etc. Each investigation is frivolous because no law could possibly have been broken in each of these investigations. The investigations are for the sole purpose of smearing Bush as corrupt as payback for the Clinton impeachment and for political gain.

Senator Specter is aiding the Democrats by giving them the cover they need to have a Republican be part of these investigations. As this article points out, if Democrats are the only ones pursuing these investigations, it shows that it is partisan. I am not sure why Specter is helping the Democrats with these frivolous investigations. Surely he knows no law could have possible been broken. Conservatives need to work to defeat Specter when he comes up for reelection.
-- Carl Harris
San Antonio, Texas

Differences in policy and procedures is what the two party system is all about. The Democrat majority has forgotten how to behave when there is a member of the opposite party in the White House. Additionally they seem to have forgotten what they are elected to do and what the President's job is. Specter has become a split personality and should be disregarded by anyone who wants to take the Senate seriously. He has served too long and should retire. I say you go Alberto, good job.
-- Rose Storey

TURNING A CORNER
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's Has Britain Had Enough?:

I was pleased to read Hal Colebatch's hopeful column about the Brits seeming to turn a corner on their tolerance for multiculturalism to the total denial of their own culture. Please let it be so.

Now, if we could convince our own Democrats and media in this country, we might have a chance of actually winning the clash of civilizations that is ongoing here with every CAIR protest, every "flying imam," every suit of John Doe for reporting suspicious activity, every taxi driver refusing to transport passengers with alcohol, every California school that gives special consideration for Muslim prayer ...watch this video between Roger Hedgecock and Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR here:

I'm not sure what it will take to convince our left-wing media, government and the leftists who run the schools, but the change in the U.K. is a good sign. Hopefully it will not take another terrorist attack here to finally wake up our people. One good sign in this country -- the uproar over illegal immigration. That is a signal that the common folk here in the U.S. get it. The elites better start paying attention.
-- Deborah Durkee
Marietta, Georgia

What an interesting article is Hal Colebatch's "Has Britain Had Enough?" to read. Historically, Mr. Colebatch has been right on the button in his reports about Britain and despite a little skepticism in my bones about some of what he says this time, I am optimistic that the Brits are stirring at last. What is illuminating, though not surprising, is the fact that it is the British public who are taking the initiative and not the gutless politicians. They'll react, again, to public opinion to save their hides rather than lead the way. More's the pity that the current bunch in control of the Opposition Party are so far from where the British public are going that they'll suffer further wilderness years. Go figure why Republican contenders for the 2008 Presidential Election are seeking the Iron Lady out and not some faceless bleeding heart bureaucrats running (or should I say ruining) the EU. Are all British political parties really now Democrats at heart?
-- G. Constable
Sydney, Australia

I have had enough over over-apologetic movement. Not only over-compensating for other cultures at the expense of our own, but also giving way by allowing brutal and cruel treatment of others because of "diversity." From airport screening procedures to stadium sized mosques in the centers of town, folks just aren't supposed to notice. What's typical of liberalism; trying to regulate away the fact that regular folks DO notice strange stuff.

Our Western culture is distinct and valuable. It did not develop at the expense of others. It developed because of better ideas that perpetrate human existence.

Look at most totalitarian regimes and you see hitchhikers of technology. The power they achieved was by theft or the black-market purchase of the West's technologies. The West, it has been proven can be trusted with a nuclear bomb. But the Islamo-commie-fascists have proven themselves untrustworthy, with the exception that they continually gain power two ways, theft of technology and the acquiescence of the Western politicians (Pelosi in Syria comes to mind. Carter in N. Korea is another).

We not only have the right to wage a social and on field battle against such an insurgency, we have to if we are to enjoy our own distinct Western culture. The Islamo-commie-fascists are hell bent on expanding theirs. Are we Westerners up to the task of defending ours?
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Great article! Congratulations! It is time for the West to open their "multicultural eyes" and see that the so-called multiculturalism is a Trojan horse of the Islamofascists to impose their way of living upon the rest of us. They DEMAND respect for their "culture," yet despise other cultures. Can one imagine Christians or Jews, Hinduists or Buddhists demonstrating in the streets of major Muslims cities demanding their rights?! They will be slaughtered before they hit the street. Open your eyes ignorant, and lazy liberals, multiculturalists, peace-lovers! In old days there were no peace-lovers, they used to be called COWARDS!
-- Gayane
Former Democrat

I certainly hope this signifies the return of the British Lion. I'd rather stand and fight with lions than cower with pussies.
-- Karl F. Auerbach
Eden, Utah

The Lion's heart may still be beating, after all.

The latest news: on 26 July, a bevy of Qatari princesses kicked up a fuss about being seated next to unrelated males (business/first class, of course), on a flight out of Milan.

The British Airways pilot tried his best to rectify the situation, but when their highnesses persisted in being a pain in the burka, and their retainers refused to sit down while taxiing, he threw the whole kitboodle of them off the plane, to cheers from the rest of the passengers.

Never mind Salman Rushdie: give that airline pilot a place in the next Honors List.
-- Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

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