- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

Money sets a tone in organ transplant debate

The article "Group seeks study on money for organs" (Friday) misinterprets the implications of the recent action of the Board of Directors of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS operates the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) under federal contract.

First and foremost, UNOS supports and encourages national public policy for organ donation based on volunteerism. This is the fundamental tenet of efforts by UNOS and other transplant-related organizations to educate the public about the need for organ donation.

But recognizing the acute donor shortage, the OPTN/UNOS board's resolution would permit a carefully controlled study of a variety of potential incentives to encourage a higher level of donation. These incentives could include options such as partial reimbursement of donors' medical or funeral expenses. This should not be construed as a "purchase" of organs, as the article states.

Further, while the board supports any needed modifications to legislation to allow study of such initiatives, this does not necessarily translate into active lobbying, as stated in the article.

The concern expressed by one interviewee that such approaches would lead to "pulling the plug" on potential donors before death is unfounded. The fundamental obligation of all medical professionals is to save and enhance life. Organ recovery for transplantation occurs only after death has been confirmed by physicians not involved in transplantation, and the professionals involved in the donation process are completely separate from those attending patients before death.

UNOS would never support any approach that would compromise patients' lives.


JEREMIAH G. TURCOTTE

President

United Network for Organ Sharing

Richmond




The effort by the United Network for Organ Sharing to lift the current ban on selling human organs for use in transplants should be applauded ("Shortage spurs organ-policy debate," Nation, Tuesday). Unfortunately, some organizations, such as the American Medical Association, prefer the status quo, in which an estimated 7,000 Americans die every year because they cannot get organs for transplant.

Opponents of the idea argue that under a system of organ sales, "only the rich could afford them." Nowadays, however, those who get the organs already tend to be the well-off.

The current shortage of donors is caused by the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, which prohibits any payment to organ donors. This law constitutes a clear example of how a public policy conceived with good intentions has had unintended consequences. It is time for Congress to end the prohibition.

Allowing people to receive money for giving organs would create the incentives that in the long run will eliminate the chronic shortage of organs the country has been suffering for the past decade, increasing supplies and saving lives. Like every market transaction, it is a win-win situation. The price of organs will fall as the supply increases. Currently, the price hospitals must pay is extremely high because there is no legal market.

The only other possibility is to leave the situation as it is, in which people die because there are not enough donors. The AMA's stand is an ideological one. By preventing the saving of lives, which should be the group's primary goal, it is also an unethical one.


JUAN CARLOS HIDALGO

Research Associate

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Washington

Setting steel to columnist's contradictions

With attention focused on the WorldCom scandal, Lawrence Kudlow's attempt to blame the allegedly "anti-growth" trade policies of President Bush for the stock market drop is wrong ("Did Bush steel the market?" Commentary, June 26).

Mr. Kudlow is upset that Mr. Bush deviated from the sophistry of "free trade" for a more realistic response to the global trade rivalry in steel. Not only is this a bad analysis, but it contradicts Mr. Kudlow's earlier pronouncements.

Only two weeks ago, Mr. Kudlow was writing about how industrial production was up in the economy, citing May data from the Federal Reserve Board ("Positive production periscope," Commentary, June 19). He said then that the stock market malaise was due to "corporate corruption, accounting fraud, and fears of an imminent terrorist attack on the U.S." There has been no change in Mr. Bush's trade policies since then, but these other elements have persisted.

Mr. Kudlow is a supply-sider, which is a good thing; but he doesn't understand how this approach relates to international trade rivalry and investment. If American industry is to attract capital, and thus promote national economic growth, there must be confidence that the president will enforce the trade laws. Otherwise, foreign firms, using predatory tactics subsidized by governments also pursuing supply-side effects, will wipe out any return on capital placed in American-based enterprises. U.S. trade laws are meant to reduce the risk of productive investment, and thus increase investments.

Mr. Kudlow cites former President Ronald Reagan as a "free trader," but Mr. Reagan took an even harder line than Mr. Bush on steel, machine tools, auto and a host of other industries menaced by foreign rivals. Mr. Kudlow should check his history more carefully before rewriting it.


WILLIAM R. HAWKINS

Senior Fellow

U.S. Business and Industry Council

Washington

Animal experimentation is not the cat's meow

Though I deplore some animal activists' harassment of Ohio State University's Dr. Michael Podell and his family, I am compelled to take issue with Frankie Trull's claims ("A sickening loss," Commentary, Sunday) that virtually all advancements in human medicine of the 20th century were "based on knowledge attained through research with animals."

It is true that animal research took place in connection with most advances, but it is by no means true that it was responsible for their success. Indeed, experiments on animals have tended to mislead researchers and delay advances because of interspecies differences in bodily functions. Aspirin is lethal for cats, for instance, and penicillin kills guinea pigs, while monkeys can ingest arsenic without harm. Animal researchers say that animals have circulatory, alimentary and nervous systems similar to those of humans, but even minute differences at the molecular level can produce results opposite to those of humans.

Researchers have tried to overcome this problem by manipulating the genes of research animals and even by creating transgenic animals, but there still are too many variables for these defective animals to reliably mimic human responses. It is immaterial that "approximately 95 percent of all lab animals are specially bred rats and mice" rather than more popular species such as cats, dogs and primates. It is only by coincidence that results obtained on any animals are applicable to humans. Does this sound like good science?

As the public has become more aware of the fallibility of applying results obtained on animals to human conditions, researchers announcing a new discovery are typically adding a cautionary note that the ultimate results will not be known until after human trials have been conducted.

It seems logical that surgical techniques could be learned on animals, but Lawson Tait, one of the greatest surgeons of all times, defied "any member of my profession to prove that vivisection (cutting up animals) has been of the slightest use to the progress of medical science and therapeutics."

Contemporary thoracic surgeon Moneim A. Fadali, diplomate of the American Board of Surgery, has written: "Animal models differ from their human counterparts. Conclusions drawn from animal research when applied to human disease delay progress, mislead and do harm to the patient."

Dr. Fadali is one of the growing number of physicians who support organizations formed in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and the United States for the purpose of educating government officials and the public about the shortcomings of animal experimentation.


BINA ROBINSON

Director

Citizens for Planetary Health

Swain, N.Y.


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