Tag Archives: organ transplant

KQED profiles those who live with disease, injury

This month’s edition of Health Dialogues, part of KQED’s California Report, focuses on living with disease. In the report, KQED reporters talk to folks living with chronic disease, the effects of traumatic injury and other conditions that can have lasting effects on a person’s quality of life.

“Healed?” By swingnut via Flickr.

To provide insight into the life and routine of someone coping with chronic disease, reporters profile a music programmer ‘coping’ with diabetes, an activist who stumbled upon a forgotten childhood diagnosis of hepatitis B and a cellist with multiple sclerosis. They also talk to a couple dealing with cancer and two sisters on opposite ends of an organ donation chain.

In addition to cancer and disease, KQED reporters also explore how the lasting effects of traumatic injury can shape your life. Pieces include a KPBS reporter talking about his own traumatic brain injury and the story of a surfing-based physical therapy program for veterans.

Why aren’t some on dialysis referred for transplants?

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters Andrew Conte and Luis Fabregas have released the results of an extensive investigation into kidney transplant and dialysis. Conte and Fabregas found that some dialysis patients hadn’t been told that kidney transplant is an option, even though the procedure, for which patients should get on waiting lists as soon as possible, could add years to their lives. Last year, the duo claimed a top AHCJ award for their work on a similar topic, liver transplants.

The financial consequences of their findings are particularly timely. Kidney conditions account for a fifth of Medicare spending, and “a new kidney costs the federal Medicare program $50,000 less per patient than conventional dialysis,” Conte and Fabregas report.

More than 32,000 of the 105,653 people who started treatment for kidney failure in 2006 were not informed about the option of kidney transplantation, according to the latest available information reported to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Nearly 44 percent of the uninformed simply were not assessed for transplant, the data show. In other cases, patients were deemed to be medically or psychologically unfit for a transplant, or unsuitable because of age.

Private insurers keep dialysis clinics humming

The reporters found that these issues, which have existed for decades, are at least partly attributable to the “inertia” of a system in which dialysis centers need to pull in new patients with private insurance in order to offset the cost of providing dialysis to Medicare and Medicate patients, whose government reimbursements do not cover the full cost of the procedures.

Some doctors say the payment system creates unhealthy incentives for providers to focus on filling their clinics when they should be primarily concerned with making sure patients receive information about transplantation as soon as possible.

Kidney transplants can extend lives by 10 years or more

In this story, Conte and Fabregas continue to build their case. Now that they’ve shown the financial impact of not referring dialysis patients for transplantation, they move on to the human impact. They use numbers, experts and analysis to show why transplantation is a far better decision, healthwise.

Experts: Crucial to get on waiting list as soon as possible

Finally, reporters bring everything together by showing that informing a patient of the possibility of the transplant and getting them on a waiting list is key to ensuring their continuing health.


Washington Post videojournalist Pierre Kattar Jr. tells the story of joining an eight-person kidney donation chain in order to overcome incompatible blood types and donate a kidney to his ailing father, 61-year-old Pierre Kattar Sr. (Hat Tip to kobreGUIDE)

For more on kidney donation chains, see Mat Dowling’s NJ.com multimedia series covering a six-person chain in New York and New Jersey.

Man claims he sold kidney for $20,000

Associated Press reporters Carla K. Johnson and Adam Goldman report on a man who says he was paid $20,000 for his kidney.

The reporters write that much of his story can be confirmed. The man who received his kidney calls the alleged $20,000 payment “an embellishment.” Nick Rosen, the man who gave up his kidney, made a video that shows him on a bed with what he says is $20,000.

Johnson and Goldman tell the tale while also looking at some of the larger issues of selling organs and the screening that transplant centers do.


Organ network looks to address regional disparities

American Medical News‘ Kevin O’Reilly writes that, spurred on by attention paid to Apple boss Steve Jobs’ trip to Tennessee to take advantage of shorter liver transplant waiting lists, the United Network for Organ Sharing (which has a government contract to run the country’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network) will meet in the spring of 2010 to address socioeconomic and regional variations in access to donated organs (see a graph of regional waiting list sizes here).

Photo by futureatlas.com via Flickr

Jobs did not break any rules, experts say, but he did use his resources to take advantage of an imperfect system. One of the biggest problems? Multiple listings, in which one wealthy patient hops on waiting lists across the country and plays the odds to get the fastest-possible transplant. In what may be an obstacle to reform, some argue that multiple listing is a reasonable practice used by rich and poor alike. Additionally, others say that regional differences in transplant wait times reflect more than just differences in access to health care; they also reflect the high cost of transporting live organs and differing regional success rates in encouraging new donors and standards for harvesting organs.