Soliciting organs over the Internet

05/04/05

Internet donor matching service and ethicists discuss the web's impact on organ donation: May 12, 2005

WHAT: The Harvard Medical School (HMS) Division of Medical Ethics will host a public forum, titled "Soliciting Organs Over the Internet," which will bring together an Internet donor matching service MatchingDonors.com and ethicists to discuss the changing landscape of organ donation. The event will be held at HMS in the Tosteson Medical Education Center on Thursday, May 12.

The great majority of organ transplantation occurs under the management of the government-sanctioned United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS, www.unos.org), which maintains waiting lists, determines the priority of patients on the lists, and places available organs. Historically, UNOS has discouraged patients from soliciting organs from non-related donors, but the Internet now offers the potential to facilitate solicitation on a large scale.

One website, MatchingDonors.com, has already successfully paired several organ donors to recipients, which have resulted in seven successful surgeries in the past six months. The site lists nearly 2,000 potential donors offering a kidney or parts of a pancreas, liver, lung, bone marrow, or intestine. For a fee (waived if the patient cannot afford to pay), patients searching for these organs may post a solicitation as well. While praised by many patient advocates, the MatchingDonors.com program has also been severely criticized by those who believe it will subvert the UNOS system of organ allocation.

However, as the circle of acceptable living donors grows beyond family and friends, the medical community has had to confront the ethics of the situation. Both MatchingDonors.com and the medical community at large have decided that living donors should not receive financial remuneration for their organs, but policing this has proven to be difficult, if not impossible. Leading ethicists and members of the transplant community will discuss the pros and cons of soliciting organs on the Internet--is this a benefit or a setback for those desperately in need of an organ transplant?

WHEN: Thursday, May 12, 2005
4:00-6:00pm
Please RSVP to DME@hms.harvard.edu or 617-432-2570.

WHERE: Harvard Medical School (HMS)
Tosteson Medical Education Center, Carl Walter Amphitheater
260 Longwood Avenue (2nd Floor)
Boston, MA 02115

WHO: Speakers:

  • Jeremiah Lowney, MD, Medical Director, MatchingDonors.com

  • Douglas Hanto, MD, PhD, Lewis Thomas Professor of Surgery at HMS and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC); Chief, Division of Transplantation, BIDMC; Chair, Ethics Committee, American Society of Transplant Surgeons; and member of the Ethics Committee, UNOS

  • Arthur Caplan, PhD, Emanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics; Chair, Department of Medical Ethics; and Director, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania;

  • Dan Brock, PhD, Frances Glessner Lee Professor of Medical Ethics; and Director, Division of Medical Ethics, HMS

    Moderator: Robert Truog, MD, Professor of Medical Ethics at HMS and of Anesthesia (Pediatrics) at Children's Hospital Boston; and Director of Clinical Ethics, HMS

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