Sunday, July 04, 2004

Musical livers

Susanna digresses into a story about a three-way liver transplant here:
Speaking of organ donations, I watched one of those "amazing medical stories!" types of shows last night. In one segment, a young man learned in his late 20s that he had a liver condition that caused a buildup of proteins in his body and it had reached a life-threatening stage. He had to have a liver transplant or die. However, he was thousands down the list to get one. As it turns out (and I didn't know this until last night), you can actually lose half your liver and it will regenerate, at least to a degree. So they sought a voluntary living donor, and they found one. That's a whole story in itself. Then a third person came into the equation - a woman in her late 30s whose liver was nearly useless because of cancer. It hadn't metastisized, but it wouldn't be long, so she needed a liver transplant right away too. Same situation - way down on the list. However, the liver disease the young man had was a slow one, a condition that takes years to cause a life-threatening condition. His liver was essential okay except for that one malfunction, it was just that the accummulated result of that malfunction had caught up with him. The doctors said it had taken "decades" to get to that point. So, they thought, why not give his liver to this woman, because it would give her at least 15-20 years before causing serious problems, and maybe by then there'd be treatments or greater possibility of another donation?

So they did. In one day, they took half the healthy liver of the donor, transplanted it into the sick young man, then took his liver and put it in the woman with cancer. At the end of the segment, they said that within a month of the surgery, the donor's remaining liver had regenerated to 75% of its previous capacity, the other half had regenerated to the same degree in the formerly sick young man, and the woman with cancer was now cancer free and living a life with a future.
I'd like to see follow-ups on this one.

I'd also like to see what health insurors have to say about this. Would they cover it?

If they wouldn't, then of course the usual suspects would howl about this being some sort of injustice. Possibly. But they'd be more convincing if they put up their own money first to make sure what needed doing got done before they called in the lawyers and lobbyists.

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