Should an organ donors medical history be revealed to organ recipients? – No

Certainly for safety, legal and health reasons an organ donor’s complete medical history should be revealed to a recipient’s physician, and to the surgeons performing the donation/transplant…But what necessity exists for disclosing this information to a recipient? Divulging too many details in one respect might even hinder a seriously ill patient’s recovery by causing the recipient to worry about possible complications.

Organ donation, of course, remains a very sensitive issue.  Today, many people fill the roster of waiting recipients.  Too few organs exist to fill the need.

Although a donor may provide life saving assistance to another person, the process sometimes entails a bitter irony.  Often, the procedure occurs only because someone else passes away.  The recipient’s loved ones may celebrate the survival of a patient who holds an important place in their hearts, yet this gift may have occurred through circumstances surrounding the tragic loss of another human being.

Hopefully, in the very near future, advances in transplant medicine will permit the development of new organs created in a laboratory from a waiting patient’s own body.  

Many advances occurred in this field just recently.  But until organ regeneration reaches the stage when such “high tech” transplants become routine affairs, society must rely upon volunteers to fill the demand for donations.

The recipient of a donated organ does not need to know the personal health history of the donor as long as his or her physician has obtained access to that essential information.  What, if any purpose, does divulging the donor’s personal medical history to a lay person really serve?  Probably most transplant recipients hope for treatment – as long as the case is not impacted in medical terms, it should make no difference to the ailing patient whether or not his or her donor comes from a particular demographic background, or whether or not the circumstances of the person’s passing involved a tragedy or natural causes.

For example, imagine the problems which might arise if a prospective transplant recipient decided to veto the procedure at the last minute on a non-medical basis.  In order to perform the transplant surgery, the surgeons and their staffs must often assemble quickly on short notice and initiate costly procedures.  With organs already in short supply, should society really allow a potential recipient to change his or her mind at the last minute for a non-medically significant reason?

A cancellation at the last minute based on a non-relevant fact in a donor’s medical history might involve the loss of a viable transplant organ while other needy patients continue waiting for donors.  And some of these ailing potential recipients might otherwise have benefited by advancing forward up the list of transplant candidates.  Certainly in that hypothetical situation, costs would impact the medical facility, staff and families.

No one but a trained medical professional should wield that type of veto power!

Additionally, transplant recipients already face a high degree of stress.  They must remain prepared to submit to a serious medical procedure, generally with very little notice.  Often, the burden of remaining on a long transplant waiting list has already taken a toll on a recipient’s attitude and peace of mind. It remains important from a practical standpoint to alleviate any source of possible stress to these patients.