In general, transplant surgeons are wary of the idea. As they see it, living through the death of two bodies is traumatic for organs, and transplant surgery can cause kidneys further injury, as they get artificially flushed, cooled, and infused with drugs to keep bodies from rejecting them. But Veale argues that judging a kidney based on the lives itaˆ™s lived disqualifies some organs unnecessarily, leading to preventable loss of life.
Today, the U.S. has more than 74,000 people on waiting lists for kidney transplantsaˆ”a wait that often outlasts their ability to survive kidney failure. Hundreds of thousands of people are currently surviving on dialysis, a several-hour treatment multiple times a week that does the kidneysaˆ™ job of flushing waste from the body. However, only a third of people survive more than three years on dialysisaˆ”meaning many never live to see their turn for a transplant.
Whether itaˆ™s a literal lifesaver or an immense reprieve from time-consuming dialysis, a donor kidney can make all the difference in someoneaˆ™s life. Hereaˆ™s Usha Lee McFarling, reporting for STAT News:
Vertis Boyce of Las Vegas is thrilled with the aˆ?pre-ownedaˆ? kidney she received in July, which allowed her to stop the dialysis treatments sheaˆ™d been on for nine years and start traveling again. She recently attended a nephewaˆ™s wedding in North Carolina.
aˆ?I feel free again,aˆ? she said. aˆ?I can do all those normal things you take for granted.aˆ?
At the moment, itaˆ™s too soonaˆ”and there are too few casesaˆ”to tell how the performance of twice-reused kidneys compares to ordinary transplants, which typically last up to 12 years. But all three of Vealeaˆ™s patients now living with twice-recycled kidneys are doing well, months after surgery.
Now,A aˆ?pre-ownedaˆ? kidneys are not the only kidneys being reconsidered for transplants. Around the country, surgeons are successfully transplanting kidneys from HIV- and other disease-infected donors into similarly infected patients.
In light of his preliminary success, Veale stands by his hunchaˆ”that the best way to determine a kidneyaˆ™s suitability for transplant, he says, is how it performs in a lab test, not its history.