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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Don't take your organs to heaven

Each day in the U.S., 106 people go on the transplant waiting list but only 68 receive a new organ

Todd Krampitz’s message was simple: “I Need a Liver—Please Help Save My Life!” Plastered on two billboards along a busy Houston freeway, his plea included a toll-free number and Web site (www.ToddNeedsaLiver.com) that told his story.

Krampitz, 32, was hospitalized in May 2004 with sudden severe abdominal pain. The diagnosis was liver cancer so extensive that he’d never survive the average 515-day climb to the top of the transplant list some 17,000 patients long.

Billboard for Todd KrampitzSeeing no other option, his family and friends skirted the national organ donor registry to look for a directed donation, one in which a family would ask that their loved one’s liver go directly to Krampitz.

It worked. Within a week, a family directed that their deceased relative’s liver go to Krampitz rather than to the person on the top of the list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing, which coordinates the nation’s transplants. Such donations to strangers are legal but rare—most directed donations occur within families or between friends.

Internet-brokered transplants raise ethical concerns about human need, the just distribution of available organs and the formation of an international cyber-market in human organs.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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