Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Tissue donation need and unnecessary refusal of donors

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-04-10

Australia’s tissue donors are a rare breed, and it appears older donors of bone marrow provide less useful tissue. The implications of the ageing list of potential donors implies drives need to target younger people.  More details in Nature’s "Bone Marrow Transplantation" [doi:10.1038/sj.bmt.1705950] here).

This will be an increasingly important problem for Australia, and I’ve no idea why young people are so lacking in the will to get off their a***s and register for tissue or post-mortem recovery of life-saving materials.

By the way: I tried to register for blood marrow myself, but with epilepsy, the dangers of fits from drug level changes and/or the risks from anaesthetics meant that it was considered too dangerous to me to be a donor.  That made me feel pretty worthless.

Sure, there is some risk of death with any fit, but this risk is minimized if you are in hospital at the time.  But to me, especially as bone marrow is most often used for leukaemia patients, and usually kids, how is this any different from the risk anyone would take to save a kid who was wandering into traffic, being attacked by a dog, etc, etc?

Let’s face it, if someone is prepared to risk a fit when under medical supervision, in order to have a very good chance of saving the life of a child, the donation ought to be allowed by medical ethics.

If the drugs I’m on pose any threat to the recipient, I’d be more than prepared to wean off them for a while, again under medical supervision.  Epileptic wannabe mothers do this all the time!

Remember, there is usually a reasonable period of time between knowing that a donation is required, and the time the marrow is extracted.

The risks to me are probably of the same order as someone who donates a spare kidney to a relative.

Don’t I have the right to save a kid’s life?  Isn’t the right to try and save someone even though you put yourself at risk a civil right?

Laws to allow somewhat risky donations, after full explanation and acceptance of the risks, should be brought in to allow people like me to override this silly aspect of medical ethics.


2 Responses to “Tissue donation need and unnecessary refusal of donors”

  1. zombinol said

    You say that you felt worthless and yes you are to the drug companies if you go off your medication…every dollar counts, but don’t think you are worthless, indeed you are very valuable, your want and need on this issue is self evident of that worth.

    I guess sick kids are more profitable in the long run, but don’t quote me on that, I wouldn’t want people to feel like they are a commodity to be profited from.

    You should have a right to save sick kids and should be able to and I’m not sure about the sill aspects you speak of?

    A doctor does have a legitimate issue based in the Hippocratic oath, to never do harm to anybody. If harm may be done to you in saving another a doctor should not enable that harm, it ye verily does suck, but getting amendments to the oath might be a tad tricky I suspect.

    The Hippocratic Oath

    I swear by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judegment, the following Oath.

    To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.

    I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

    To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death.

    Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.

    But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

    I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.

    In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.

    All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.

    If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

  2. Dave Bath said

    The issue is nothing to do with the drug companies.

    It is to do with the medical ethics of MY doctor(s), who must minimize harm to ME.

    My point is that **I** should be able to decide if the risks (to me as a potential donor) outweigh the risks (to the potential recipient, in this case CERTAIN death), and release MY doctor from their obligation to me. (I can’t just swap doctors, as the new doctor would get lumped with MY risks automatically).

    Fairly obviously, my choice would very with the recipient. If the recipient was young, otherwise healthy, I’d like to say yes. If the recipient was old, with other medical problems, I’d probably say no.

    This is probably an area where laws are required, so a patient can “absolve in advance” their own doctor.

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