Can anyone be a living kidney donor?

The simple answer: No.

Potential living donors have to be cleared to donate. Is the donor physically healthy? Is the donor psychologically healthy? Are there social pressures that the potential donor is experiencing that disqualify him or her from consideration?

Needless to say, perhaps, but these concerns are not an issue in the case of deceased donation. Anyone can consent in advance to be a donor upon death, and it is up to the attending medical staff to decide whether one’s organs and tissues are suitable for donation. In short, don’t let a belief that your health is inadequate prevent you from registering as an organ donor. The doctors will figure out whether you are suitable donor.

I bring up this subject because of an article published in the National Post recently. Ashley Barnaby, mother to 18-month-old Zaccari Buell, wants to donate her kidney to him, but she has been disqualified from doing so because there is an unacceptable level of risk to her health if she were to do so. This raises an ethical dilemma. The well-established medical protocols for determining fitness for donation have disqualified her. However, since she is aware of the risk and is willing to take it, should she not have the right to take that risk upon herself for the sake of her child?

I am sure that biomedical ethicists could write a detailed analysis of this situation, but I will highlight just one point: organ donation is much more than a simple exchange; it’s not just a business transaction. Organ transplantation is a profoundly social event, involving the health professions and government regulation of healthcare, which, in turn, reflects the values of the larger society. It is a profoundly personal thing to be willing to step forward as a living donor, but that still doesn’t allow for the expression of “rugged individualism.”

I invite you to read this article and reflect for yourself on Ashley and Zaccari’s situation.

Mother angry after she’s refused clearance to donate kidney to 18-month-old son

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press | January 22, 2016

Zaccari Buell. Ashley Barnaby says parents should be allowed to assume some health risk to help their children live better lives.

Zaccari Buell. Ashley Barnaby says parents should be allowed to assume some health risk to help their children live better lives.

HALIFAX — A New Brunswick mother who tried unsuccessfully to donate her kidney to her baby boy says parents should be allowed to assume some health risk to help their children live better lives.

Ashley Barnaby says she was informed recently that staff at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Halifax rejected her application because of her history of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

The mother says the risk to herself is small compared to the kind of complete change the transplant would bring to her 18-month-old son Zaccari Buell.

“It would give him a more normal childhood. … He’s attached to a machine right now and that’s what is keeping him going,” she said in an interview.

Zaccari currently requires 12 hours of dialysis daily at his Moncton home due to his stage-four renal failure and has spent parts of his young life at hospitals in Nova Scotia.

Barnaby, 28, says she was told she runs the risk of developing diabetes in the future if she gives her organ to her little boy.

However, the mother says she feels if she carefully monitors her health that she could avoid the possible future health problems related to her organ donation.

Click here to read more.

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