The news that the UCSF program was halted due to kidney donor’s death, which occurred this November, brings forth a rather grim scenario. Even though the deaths of living donors patients are extremely rare, taking responsibility for them proves to be too great for the University of California, San Francisco, which makes possible around 350 kidney transplants each year.
The transplant which led to the patient’s death was made back in October 2015. His death in November is currently studied extensively by doctors as well as specialists from the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network. The OPTN proposed the suspension of the UCSF program right after the death occurred, but only now it has been taken into effect.
The reason why this tragic event came to be is unknown by this point, with various factors ranging from underlying medical conditions to the organ procurement itself being considered as viable causes. The main issue arising from this suspension is the fact that the odds of death are extremely low, only 0.5%, with two deaths for every 350 successful transplants. When compared to the number of lives saved, a rather unethical question arises. Is the sacrifice small enough for these types of procedures to continue?
The OPTN, as well as the UCSF, answers this with a determined “no”. If there is just the slimmest of chances that a live donor’s death would occur, the removal surgery, as well as the transplant itself, should be severely analyzed and modified in order to eliminate any chance of death.
Even if the program is currently suspended, the UCSF will continue its transplants from dead donors. Considering that out of the 350 transplants, only 150 are made from living donors, this will not impact the region as heavy as a complete program suspension would.
The University of California is the biggest kidney transplant center in the US, as well as the most successful. It has the largest waiting list out of any transplant center and has, up to this point, made possible over 10.000 transplants since it first began its program back in 1964. Hopefully, this event will not bring the end of said program, allowing patients who require these life-giving surgeries still undergo kidney transplants.
The threat of death occurring in living donor patients has been a lingering problem since this type of transplant began surfacing. Fortunately, in the future, this problem will be deemed completely moot. Research focusing on the growth of organs through the use of stem cells, outside of the human body, has been underway for a couple of years up to this point. By creating “spare parts” for patients in dire need of a transplant, especially those requiring extremely rare donors, these procedures would become more widespread as well as more reliable, eliminating the possibility of organ rejection.
Even if the UCSF program was halted due to kidney donor’s death, further inquiries made on the matter will eventually make the kidney transplant program from living donors active once again. It all depends if the cause of death found was a problem with the patient himself or if it was due to the medical procedure applied. People who are currently on the waiting list can only hope that this investigation will conclude as fast as possible, allowing them to receive kidney transplants from their family relatives or friends.