Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sally Satel on EconTalk, talking about organ donation (podcast)

Sally Satel on Organ Donation

EconTalk Episode with Sally Satel
Hosted by Russ Roberts
You Are What You Eat...
kidney.jpgSally Satel, psychiatrist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the challenges of increasing the supply of donated organs for transplantation and ways that public policy might increase the supply. Satel, who has received two kidney donations, suggests a federal tax credit as a way to increase the supply of organs while saving the federal government money. She also discusses the ethical issues surrounding various forms of compensation for organ donors.
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Readings and Links related to this podcast episode

Related Readings
This week's guest: This week's focus: Additional ideas and people mentioned in this podcast episode: A few more readings and background resources: A few more EconTalk podcast episodes:


Podcast Episode Highlights
Intro. [Recording date: July 6, 2017.]
Russ Roberts: Sally Satel recently wrote an article with Alan Viard entitled "The Kindest (Tax) Cut: A Federal Tax Credit for Organ Donations," and that's going to be our topic for today.... So, you bring a special perspective to kidney donations. Talk about your personal story.
Sally Satel: Yeah. I got a kidney in 2006; and then I got another kidney a year ago, almost a year ago today. And, when I got my first one it was sort of a surprise. A lot of people who know that they're going to need a kidney--well, by definition, they know that they're going to need a kidney. What I meant is that they have certain illnesses--they are either diabetic, or they've got lupus, severe hypertension that's been poorly managed for a while, high blood pressure. People know they are at risk for this, for kidney failure. But my case was sort of a surprise. I just went to the doctor for a regular checkup. This is the part of the story that scares everyone, because I felt completely fine. And during a routine blood draw, found out that I had--well, that I had kidney failure. Which is rather easy to diagnose. It's a test called a creatinine level. But when you go for a regular blood draw, a routine blood draw, that's one of the indexes they measure. So, they tested it again, and that was the same. So, the clock was ticking for me, because I knew from my medical training that if you have kidney failure, you need a new kidney, or you will languish on dialysis for years. And no matter how long you are on dialysis, your life will be prematurely shortened. I mean, people have lived for 20 years, even a little longer, on dialysis. Some people tolerate it better than others. That's a process where your blood is cleansed of toxins about 3 times a week for about 4 hours at a time; you go to a clinic. Most people feel very debilitated by it. The average person on dialysis can't hold a job. But some do. And, some people--it isn't as psychologically devastating to some folks. But others find it so distressing, they are actually--suicide is not that unusual. So, the idea of being tethered to that machine, while, granted, it would keep me alive. Now, if my liver had failed and I didn't get a transplant, that would be it. So, kidney dialysis does keep people alive for awhile. But it just seemed like a really, really half a life. So, I knew I needed a kidney, but I didn't know exactly when I would need dialysis. So, as I said, the clock started ticking. And it turned out I had a good year before the function got to the point where I really was becoming physically debilitated. But it was very hard finding a donor. And that's what kind of galvanized me, this whole issue of the shortage. But, just in terms of finding a donor, as I say, it was extremely difficult. It's not like every day you ask people for a body part. And I didn't have--I have a very tiny family. And, to make a long story short, none of them--I didn't feel I could ask any of them. And in fact I never really asked anyone. I would do it all differently if, heaven forbid, there is yet a third time I have to go through this--see, I'm very nice to my interns. But I would just talk about it with folks and wasn't even being coy. I just sort of thought magically, 'Oh, well some people will think of being a donor, and it will work out.' But it became pretty clear that it wasn't working out. And a lot of people actually said they would do it; and I appreciate that in that I know they wanted to be--I know they felt empathy for my situation; but in the end, basically, a lot of them got cold feet and backed out. And then you're in this terribly awkward position, because you really can't be angry. I mean it's an enormous thing to ask, and it would be incredibly presumptuous to have the expectation that they owed you anything. So, I was really getting very demoralized and about to get ready to go on dialysis. And, Virginia Postrel, who I knew, not very well, had been at a cocktail reception somewhere--this was in November of 2005--and she ran into a mutual friend and asked that friend how I was. And the friend said, 'Not so hot. She needs a kidney.' And, Virginia went--I think the next went to her computer--I remember the subject line; I still have a printout of her email--it said, 'Serious Offer.' And she said, 'So-and-so told me you needed a kidney, and if I match, I will do it.' And I think she followed up a few minutes later with another email: 'I won't back out.' And, so, she went through with it. This was March of 2006. And I'm almost as grateful to Steve, her husband, as to her, because that was one of the reasons that two of my friends, other of my friends who had seriously considered donating did not go through with it--because their spouse basically said, 'It's the kidney or a divorce.' [More to come. 6:48]

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