The title of this post doesn't mean that people are donating organs in return for work, but that Apple's founder Steve Jobs has received a liver transplant. In Tennessee.
This reveals something about the regionalized waiting system for deceased donor organs in the United States, picked up in a WSJ article by Laura Meckler: Jobs's Transplant Highlights Differing Wait Times
"Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs's decision to travel to Tennessee for a liver highlights the significant disparities in transplant waiting times across the country -- the source of a longstanding controversy over the fairest way to distribute scarce organs.
For liver transplants, the wait is particularly agonizing. Kidney replacements can often be put off for years through dialysis, where a machine does the work of the kidneys. But there is no such treatment for liver disease.
There are 15,771 Americans waiting for a liver today, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Last year, 1,481 people died awaiting a donor.
Faced with a sometimes years-long wait, patients typically have only a few options. They can wait their turn at a home-state transplant center, knowing that their chances will improve as they get sicker; look for a friend or family member willing to undergo major surgery to contribute half of his or her liver; or seek out a hospital where the waiting times are typically shorter.
Those who travel out of state must be evaluated at the new hospital, but there is no prohibition to being on the wait list at more than one transplant center. UNOS doesn't keep statistics on how many people choose to travel out of state."
The story, incidentally, seems to be something of a scoop for the WSJ. Other newspapers are reporting the story on an "as reported in the WSJ" basis (apparently the transplant was two months ago). E.g. here is the Washington Post: Jobs, on Leave From Apple, Reportedly Had Liver Transplant
Update (6/23/09): Memphis Hospital Says It Did Jobs’s Liver Surgery.
"Methodist University Hospital in Memphis acknowledged Tuesday that it had performed a liver transplant on Steven P. Jobs, the chief executive of Apple."
"Methodist has one of the shortest waiting times of any liver transplant center in the country, according to a transplant registry operated by the Arbor Research Collaborative for Health and the University of Michigan."
"A scoring system, known as a MELD score, determines where a patient ranks on a transplant waiting list. The higher the score, the sicker a patient is and the higher the ranking. Any ties are decided by who has had that score the longest.
In its statement, Methodist said that Mr. Jobs had received a liver transplant because he was the patient of his blood type with the highest MELD score and thus “the sickest patient on the waiting list at the time a donor organ became available.” "
Further update (6/24/09): A CNN story discusses the regional allocation system, and how it favors those who are healthy and wealthy enough to be on waiting lists at multiple places around the country, under the provocative headline: Did Steve Jobs' money buy him a faster liver transplant?