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What Would Jesus Do With His Kidneys?

We have blogged repeatedly — mercilessly, some might say — about the serious shortage of human organs for transplantation, and what might be done about it. The basic problem is that relying on altruism doesn’t produce enough donated organs, but there is widespread repugnance at the idea of paying people for organs.

There’s a fascinating article by Laura Meckler in today’s Wall Street Journal — if you are a newspaper nut, save your copy; it is the final Bancroft family edition — about a tiny religious group called the Jesus Christians who see it as their mission to help people out, as they presume Jesus would have, by donating their kidneys to complete strangers. Meckler reports that more than half the members of the group have already given a kidney. Her lead example is a 23-year-old man named Ashwyn Falkingham who traveled from Australia to Toronto in order to do so.

Some of the parents of Jesus Christians members consider the group a cult, and are therefore opposed to the transplants; and hospitals too must decide if the organs are being offered with the proper consideration. Meckler writes:

Many hospitals aren’t interested in donors who don’t have an established, personal relationship with the recipient. That is partly because of fears that such donors may be secretly — and illegally — paid. Other concerns: Stranger donors may be psychologically disturbed, unrealistically hopeful that donating a kidney will improve their own lives, or likely to back out.

In the end, the Toronto hospital rejected Falkingham’s offer of a kidney, inspired by his parents’ objections that he was giving the kidney as a publicity stunt to aid his religious group. (I guess by repeating the story I am only adding to the publicity fire.) So the woman who was supposed to get Falkingham’s kidney didn’t get it. The easy way around this would have been to lie, for the donor and the recipient to pretend that they were somehow friendly. That’s what the donor and recipient in our column on this subject had to do.

FWIW, Meckler has written an awful lot of good articles on the subject of organ transplantation; I hope she is turning them into a book.