Organs from less-than-ideal donors are saving patients' lives [View all]
Organs from less-than-ideal donors are saving patients' lives
February 19, 2012
By Patricia Anstett
Detroit Free Press Medical Writer
After 2 1/2 years on Michigan's waiting list for a liver, Fredric Bennitt, who had gotten weaker and sicker, changed his mind about taking a less-than-perfect donor organ.
The liver he got last November at the University of Michigan came from someone who died of a heart attack, a donation considered somewhat riskier because organs of heart patients might go longer without a blood supply that affects the success of a transplant.
But with no increase in organ donations nationwide and not enough organs to go around, Americans must decide whether to take an organ from an older person or from someone with a chronic health issue. Bennitt, 63, was told another U-M patient declined the organ he got.
The issue is an eye-opener for some patients and their families "who assumed we only offered the best and were reluctant to consider anything but the best," said Dr. Michael Volk, a liver specialist at U-M.
In a survey Volk led, more than 42% of 95 U-M patients said they would rather wait than take a liver from a nontraditional source. Some patients don't understand that the risk of dying while waiting for an organ is often greater than risks they take with an organ from a less-than-perfect source, doctors say.