Organ donation is supposed the “Gift of Life,” and living donations have been encouraged for people in need of a kidney transplant since the donor and recipient can function with one kidney. This allows relatives who may be a better match to give a kidney instead of getting on a waiting list with tens of thousands of others and possibly waiting years for a stranger who might be a match to die. The whole experience evokes strong emotions of gratefulness and joy that a healthy person will undergo a serious operation so someone they care about can live a healthier and longer life.

But a recent case in NY might evoke more negative emotions. Someone in the process of donating a kidney contracted HIV after the screening that includes testing for the virus that causes AIDS. According to Yahoo! Reuters, after the testing the donor engaged in risky behavior that and contracted HIV days before the operation but the doctors in NY were confident in the results of the screening, the operation went ahead as scheduled. The recipient has tested positive and the Health Department is encouraging hospitals to test donors again two weeks before the operation using the nucleic acid HIV test so the virus can be detected sooner. All information that could identify the hospital, donor and recipient is being kept confidential.

Recent concerns have been voiced about the health problems living donors may face which are mostly associated having any kind of major surgery performed. But this case and one involving a man who died of uterine cancer after receiving a kidney from a woman who had not been diagnosed highlights that the recipients are still are very dependent upon the donor’s health status.

Both donor and recipient go through very strict and extensive physical and psychological screening to insure they are a match, prevent transmission of infectious disease and ensure the donor is not being coerced. But these two cases highlight that no test is perfect and if you are going to donate an organ, your health becomes someone else’s health. If you are a donor and want to give someone the gift of life, you may want to think twice about behaviors that will put such a precious gift at risk.

Image courtesy of taberandrew

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