Is It Age Discrimination to Give Organs to the Youngest in Need?

News 2011/02/25 22:00:00
Related Topics: Drugs, Discrimination
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Let the death-panel-killing-granny uproar rise again.

A story in The Washington Post Thursday outlined how the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is considering giving “younger, healthier people preference over older, sicker patients for the best kidneys.”

As it operates now, the network gives available organs to those who have been on the waiting list the longest. Simple: if you are in line first, you get served first. This system evolved from the previous which, before 1986, gave kidneys to patients who best matched the organ.

The new consideration is intended to maximize the mileage of each healthy kidney by giving the organ to the person who, by all reasonable actuarial tables, will be living the longest.

Unless he or she doesn’t get a kidney…of course.

“We're trying to best utilize the gift of the donated organ,” Kenneth Andreoni, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University who chairs the committee that is reviewing the system, told the Post. “It's an effort to get the most out of a scarce resource.”

Laine Freidman Ross, a University of Chicago bioethicist and physician, counters, “There are a lot of people in their 50s and 60s who, with a properly functioning kidney, could have 20 or more years of life. We're making it harder for them to get a kidney that will function for that length of time. It's age discrimination.”

If the UNOS moves forward with the new system, the repercussions, says another bioethicist, could affect who receives cancer drugs or ventilators during natural disaster emergencies.
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Top Opinion

  • halfmiletrack 2011/02/26 02:19:34
    I'm a "senior" (acceptable term for old fart). Many organs in my body are failing, some from abuse some simply from age. Give me a new kidney and watch me die from liver failure or heart disease or altzheimers. It would be like putting a new transmission in a 200,000 mile car. Why? Remember Mickey Mantle? Use the transplants for those who will most benefit - the young and healthy.

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  • wd40 2012/10/06 19:16:32
    The important thing to remember with kidneys is that it is exceedingly rare for transplanted kidneys to last a lifetime. With kidneys from non-living donors (the ones people on the transplant list get), the kidney lasts something like 10-15 years on average. After that, the patient has to go back on dialysis and will eventually die unless he or she gets a second transplant. If the question were, should we give a 10 year old kid the right to live to old age over a 70 year old living 5 or 10 more years, that would be easy. But what if the choice is really: who should live 15 more years? A 20 year old stoner kid with no prospects and no life goals, or a 35 year old single mom with 2 young children? The government obviously doesn't get to decide which of these lives is worth more based on personal characteristics, so why should they get to make the same judgment call (about who is deserving) based on age?
  • Ash21 2011/03/08 18:07:17
    I believe it is. Now I'm only 21 and i need a kidney. But does anyone really realize that maybe some of these older people could have have been my age when they first went on the list. I know a lady who has been on the list for almost 11 years. and she is not only 40. Its is right to give it to me because I'm younger. I don't think so. She still has life to live. regardless you could be 65 and get the transplant. How do you know that that person wont live to be 100. It doesnt matter on age. No body is promised to morrow.
  • Katherine 2011/03/01 15:16:55
    Everything is discrimination when there's a second choice. Well this is lovely. Can't wait for the competition for health in the ensuing months/years. Rationed care.... If it's your organs: I say you can choose who you want. If the government is doing it: first come, first served, best match. Etc.
  • BBB 2011/02/28 23:17:07
    Yes, of course, but it's not done without reason.

    And I'd like to think that if I were in competition for an organ with a child, I'd happily concede. I've had nearly 37 good years.
  • Delta 2011/02/28 21:37:14
    I said no, but there is the system of one young and one old; alternate by age. It really is controversial and I believe it should depend on the overall health of the person and what can they offer to society. If an older person accepts death and doesn't have long to live anyway, then, so be it. When it's your time, it's your time. Personally, I don't want to be kept alive to be taken care of after the fact.
  • harley oldman 2011/02/28 18:57:14
    harley oldman
    NO.....I had rather see a younger person get an organ before me simply because it`s their
    TURN to go thru some of the Crap I`ve had to tolerate. Let them have some of the azzkickings.

    In all Seriousness I would volunteer to pass an organ to a younger person.
  • sammanilla 2011/02/28 18:42:02
    Who gets the organ transplant is a matter of choice. That is discrimination.

    If it were Einstein or Baby Huey would you value the investment of the man or take a chance on an unknown?

    No matter how we choose it's discrimination.
  • K.Kramer - BN-03 2011/02/28 18:21:36
    K.Kramer - BN-03
    Seriously? There are no better methods of solving this problem? And people are arguing about it? Give the organ to the person who can get the best/most use out of it, regardless of age, sex, sexual preference, disease, etc. I am proud to be listed as an organ donor.
  • ♠Jen♠ BN - 0 2011/02/28 18:09:24
    ♠Jen♠ BN - 0
    Let's see, give a kidney to a four year old who has their whole life in front of them, or give the kidney to a fifty year old who has had time to experience their life? Does this actually require thought? GIVE IT TO THE KID!!!!
  • whoisthis 2011/02/28 17:45:16
    Not necessarily the youngest, I think 16-30 kind of area should have priority. I saw something about murderers down there. I personally think murderers should be treated without mercy and should all be executed... then who would commit murder? Their organs could be donated too! Same with paedophiles... anyone who believes they can change is a naive fag.
  • nibi 2011/02/28 17:44:37
  • BALANCED 2011/02/28 17:41:27
    logic demands the best use of limited resources - always !
    why not let the donor decide - give options on the donor form/card -
    like =

    best match -
    best use !
    highest bidder
    greedy old selfish folks that don't care they are wasting scarce organ$ for five minutes more life -
    drunks that have already burned out their kidneys/liver -
    drug addicts that have used 80 years of organ life in 30 years -
    what will make the docs the most money -
    christians only -
    no religious affiliation -
    no gays/cons/libs
    men only
    women only -

    best use of limited resources is the only answer -
    along with best match !!
  • exhon2009 2011/02/28 17:19:49
    Yes, but maybe the question should be: Is it okay to discriminate on the basis of age? I believe we discriminate on the basis of much less valid reasons. My boyhood hero was Mickey Mantle. Mantle destroyed his liver by drinking himself into a pickled state. He received a liver and an uproar ensued over him getting one due to his fame. As much as I loved the Mick I would have put him relatively low on the list of potential recipients. BTW Mantle died within about a year of receiving the donor liver. I don't know if he donated any organs or if he was even an eligible donor.
  • bob 2011/02/28 17:10:04
    So we're giving a 10 year old an 80 year old kidney?
  • Poet003 2011/02/28 16:27:24
    A young person should be considered for organ donation before a old person.Young killers should
    be rehabilitated or put in prision for life even if they murder a much older person.This is my opinon.
  • Poet003 Poet003 2011/02/28 16:29:55
    I mean "No" it is not. I answered wrong. Duh. A young person should get organ donation 1st but
    young murderers should do time like anyone even if they murder a very elderly person.
  • intoler... Poet003 2011/02/28 17:34:35
    ..... I disagree .... young murderers should get even less time.

    By the time you start yanking parts out of them they'll have nothing left ... a murderer could save 2 kidney recipients, 1 heart recipient, 1 liver recipient, 2 eye recipients .... and if they have very rare blood type, you keep them going just a little bit longer !
  • Poet003 intoler... 2011/02/28 20:56:44
    Im not sure I believe in the death penalty for killers.
  • intoler... Poet003 2011/03/01 14:50:11
    .... I can appreciate that even though I feel differently.

    We all have a differing view ... someday you may witness an event that may change your outlook ... that event occurred for me as a teen.
  • Delta intoler... 2011/02/28 21:38:57
    Now your getting in to a REAL CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE! But it have to agree somewhat just because criminals are such a burden on society.
  • intoler... Delta 2011/03/01 15:02:22
    .... I'm certain that few take such a stern approach as mine.

    You witness as much of ' Life's Trash ' as I have, walking away with the outlook I have is rather easy ... you get numb to it.

    ..... think of it as ' Added Deterrent '
  • maimai110 2011/02/28 16:24:06
  • rugrat1411 2011/02/28 16:21:56
    It should go to the needest, not the youngest. I am thankful to a donor because without them my father would not be here. He recieved a liver a year ago this March. I wish everyone would become a donor, you no longer need your body when you die, give someone else a chance.
  • rugrat1411 rugrat1411 2011/02/28 16:27:19
    I want to add my father was 57, that is not old in my family, the men live late into their 80's with a full mind and body. My dad's liver problems were contributed to Vietnam.
  • PapaBC 2011/02/28 16:18:25
    Course, As an older person I would turn down most organ donations. Sometime life ends and we must accept that. It would be nice if older people could be given that time to make a choice.
  • Delta PapaBC 2011/02/28 21:39:53
    You know a lot of people just won't even talk about it. I have much experience in this area.
  • wtxwoman PapaBC 2011/03/01 03:33:21
    I would to. I wouldn't want to go through the pain and stress of a transplant. I'd tell them to make me comfortable as possible and let me go.
  • Brother Bo 2011/02/28 16:06:49 (edited)
    Brother Bo
    My step-father just died a couple weeks ago from Kidney failure. It would have been ridiculous to give a young, healthy kidney to him when others need it more. He didn't want a transplant and even stopped dialysis, considering it a waste of resources.
  • Delta Brother Bo 2011/02/28 21:44:06
    That was a selfless thing to do.
  • John 2011/02/28 15:57:56 (edited)
    This is a tough one. I'm not saying this just because I'm retired. For the past 40 years, my drivers license says "donor". If some in the 50's even 60's who's in decent health and has been on a list, I think they should get the organ. Let's face it, Whoever is rich or a well known celebrity will get the organ first anyway, regardless of a waiting list. This is how it has always worked. Plus, there is a black market of organs.
  • Chuck 2011/02/28 15:52:03
    Of course it is age discrimination but I am all for it. I am always for discrimination in different but most beneficial ways. In this case I think the organ has to go to the person who matches the organ first. Then if there are two or more people on the list that the organ matches equally, then you have to go with the person on the list first . . . PROVIDING that person is not already old with only a few years of expected life, while the second and third and so on has a much longer anticipated life span and consequently, better use of the organ. In determining an age cut off, or point of discrimination, you would have to figure the organ must serve the recipient a minimum of 20 years of that persons anticipated life span. Anything less than that, the organ then must go to the next in line of those of whom the organ best matches.
  • wpsark 2011/02/28 15:46:28
    ...Hmmm, I should have marked "undecided". It should go to the person who has the best chance at surviving and living a functional lifestyle; get the best use out of it basically. For instance, if a 10 yr old in a vegetative state needed a kidney transplant vs. a 60 yr old who would live a somewhat normal lifestyle with a transplant, I would vote that the 60 yr old receive the kidney. It's not so "cut & dry"....If UNOS is going to distribute the organs based on age only, then it's just bad medicine and they should not be in the business of organ transplant/harvesting..
    Discrimination is not a good term to use for this situation, it's much more complicated...
  • wtxwoman 2011/02/28 15:35:27 (edited)
    It should be taken case by case. Most older people could have a fairly normal life on dialysis. Most are not working, their families are grown, and they are at the end of their lives anyway. By the time you are old, you have multiply organs that are wearing out. Give the younger person a chance to live a full life. I don't think your wealth, celebrity, or anything else should be considered except maybe drug addiction, criminal record, etc. I may change my mind if I am ever faced with the decision, if I get to make it, but I doubt it. I definitely would give my organs to save my children or grandchildren's lives. Too much money is being spent on people who are terminal and/or have Alzheimer's. They should be made comfortable and allowed to die naturally. It's the greedy healthcare people who push the idea to keep people alive as long as possible.
  • earl 2011/02/28 15:35:20
    Other factors need to be considered.
    Over all health, waiting list, most in need.
  • lucky 2011/02/28 15:20:35
    If that was the only criteria id say yes but its not the only criteria.
  • Rogeire 2011/02/28 15:19:04
    Say after 80 yrs of age ok,maybe!, The organs should go to those who have the most serious condition. Discrimination is after all :Descrimination"
  • oakborn 2011/02/28 14:51:42
    In allocating a scarce resources, there are many factors that need to be weighed... age is one, also probability of "taking care" of that resource (ie. is the person alcoholic?), ability to take the anti-rejection drugs, chance of improved quality of life, etc.
  • Chuck 2011/02/28 12:35:12
    During this administration the common goal is to have anyone not able to support society just die off and not be a liability to anyone. What happened to a list with first come first serve or stand in line or even go to another country and buy whatever organ you need? Not to mention our laws forbid age discrimination but under this administration who cares about that?
  • Ace 2011/02/28 12:04:03
    This is really an ethics question..."bioethicist". This type of system, allocates resources in order to give preference to younger, healthier people in order to "maximize the mileage of each healthy kidney". But, the projected mileage of the kidney should not be placed above each person's right to a fair access of available resources.
  • dePSyChO 2011/02/28 11:25:45 (edited)
    This may sound harsh, but who has a better chance of making something of their lives? a 60 year old man, or a 15 year old girl? We all know the answer. I don't think that the old people shouldn't be given organs, but it just makes more sense to give the best, longest lasting ones to the younger patients.

    This kind of reminds me of the "teacher with tenure vs. the better teacher" debate on who would get fired: the teacher who's been there for 11 years but most of their students fail year after year? Or the teacher who's awesome and teaches very well, but has only been around for a year?

    It's not age discrimination, it's practicality.
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