Sunday, February 25, 2024

Mark Satterthwaite interviewed by Sandeep Baliga (video)

After listening to this interview with the great Mark Satterthwaite, I now understand the independent origins of the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem, and the collaborative origins of the Myerson-Satterthwaite theorem. 
In the final ten minutes or so of the interview, Mark describes worthwhile future research directions (and methods:), starting just after minute 28:30, particularly about appropriately matching patients to medical specialists.


Earlier interviews by Sandeep Baliga:

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Foreign surrogacy in Denmark is becoming less restrictive

 Above the Law has the story:

Denmark Passes New Pro-Surrogacy Regulations. The new rules in Denmark focus on two areas of surrogacy.  By ELLEN TRACHMAN  February 14, 2024

 "On February 5, 2024, the Danish government announced new surrogacy-supportive rules scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2025. The rules address parentage for families formed by surrogacy — including commercial (compensated) surrogacy outside of Denmark — as well as for families formed by altruistic (noncompensated) surrogacy within Denmark.


"In Denmark, compensated surrogacy is illegal, and altruistic surrogacy has traditionally fallen into a legal gray area, pushing most hopeful parents who want to have a genetic connection to their child, but who are unable to carry a pregnancy themselves, to go abroad. The Danish government estimates that about 100 children are born to Danish parents each year by surrogacy outside of Denmark, while about five children each year are born within Denmark in altruistic surrogacy arrangements.


"Denmark has a history of denying parental rights to the intended parents of children born by surrogacy abroad. But on December 6, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Denmark in K.K. and Others v. Denmark. In that case, a married heterosexual couple had twins with the assistance of a Ukrainian surrogate. Under Ukrainian law, both Danish intended parents were recognized as parents of the child, and the surrogate was not a parent of the child.


"The ECHR found that Denmark’s refusal to recognize the parent-child relationship between the mother and child was a human rights violation — not a violation of the mother’s human rights, but of the two children, to have a recognized legal relationship with their mother.

To its credit, Denmark is reacting to the ECHR’s definitive ruling. In the announcement by the Danish government last week, the government made it clear that the country’s new rules are intended to go beyond the minimum requirements of the ECHR to merely not violate the human rights of Danish children.  (The bare minimum requirement would be to just allow stepparent adoptions.) Instead, the Danish government’s new rules go farther to protect children and their parents.


"The new rules permit Danish family courts to quickly make a decision on parenthood in the case of a foreign surrogacy agreement, even permitting a court ruling to be made prior to the family’s return to Denmark. The rules also require that the court assess the best interest of the child, but with a presumption that it is, of course, in the child’s best interest to have a timely recognition of their parents.

"Moreover, the court decisions are permitted to be retroactive to the birth of the child, permitting parents to have access to parental leave work benefits, inheritance rights, and all other benefits of that legal relationship. And, in contrast to a stepparent adoption, the new rules will allow recognition of the parent-child relationship with the mother or nongenetic parent even if parents have separated, or if one parent died before they had a chance to apply for parenthood.


"In a stated attempt to address the risk of child trafficking, the rules require that at least one intended parent be genetically related to the child. Additionally, the surrogate is required to confirm in a notarized declaration after the birth that she wishes to transfer parenthood of the child to the intended parents."

Friday, February 23, 2024

Directed and semi-directed living donation of kidneys: a current debate in Israel and elsewhere

 Israel leads the world in per capita living kidney donation. A good part of that comes from the work of Matnat Chaim (gift of life), an organization of religious Jews, who donate kidneys to people they don't know.  They are "semi-directed" rather than non-directed donors, in that the organization allows them to indicate some criteria they would like their recipients to have.  Sometimes they want their recipients to be fellow Jews, and this has generated some controversy in Israel.

Below is a study of this phenomenon, and in an accompanying editorial, a criticism of it.

Nesher, Eviatar, Rachel Michowiz, and Hagai Boas. "Semidirected Living Donors in Israel: Sociodemographic Profile, Religiosity, and Social Tolerance." American Journal of Transplantation (in press).

Abstract: Living kidney donations in Israel come from 2 sources: family members and individuals who volunteer to donate their kidney to patients with whom they do not have personal acquaintance. We refer to the first group as directed living donors (DLDs) and the second as semidirected living donors (SDLDs). The incidence of SDLD in Israel is ∼60%, the highest in the world. We introduce results of a survey among 749 living donors (349 SDLDs and 400 DLDs). Our data illustrate the sociodemographic profile of the 2 groups and their answers to a series of questions regarding spirituality and social tolerance. We find SDLDs to be sectorial: they are mainly married middle-class religious men who reside in small communities. However, we found no significant difference between SDLDs and DLDs in their social tolerance. Both groups ranked high and expressed tolerance toward different social groups. Semidirected living donation enables donors to express general preferences as to the sociodemographic features of their respected recipients. This stirs a heated debate on the ethics of semidirected living donation. Our study discloses a comprehensive picture of the profile and attitudes of SDLDs in Israel, which adds valuable data to the ongoing debate on the legitimacy of semidirected living donation.

Danovitch, Gabriel. "Living organ donation in polarized societies." American Journal of Transplantation, (Editorial, in press).

"Nesher et al are to be congratulated for reporting on a unique, effective, yet ethically problematic manifestation of living kidney donation in Israel. To summarize, living kidney donation has become “de riguer,” a “mitzvah” (a religiously motivated good deed) among a population of mainly orthodox Jewish men living in religiously homogenous settlements. According to the authors, the donors view themselves as donating altruistically within a larger family. The donations, over 1300 of them, 60% of all living donations in the country, have changed the face of Israeli transplantation, reduced the waiting time for all transplant candidates on the deceased donor waiting list,2 and minimized the temptation of Israeli transplant candidates to engage in “transplant tourism,” a phenomenon that was an unfortunate feature of Israeli transplantation before the passage of the Israeli Transplant Act of 2008 that criminalized organ trading.3

So, what’s the problem? Matnat Chaim (“life-giving”), the organization that facilitates the donations, permits the donors to pick and choose among a list of potential recipients using criteria that according to its own website,4 and as Nesher et al note,1 are not transparent. ... frequently the donors elect to donate to other Jews.  ... " Israel is a country with an 80% Jewish majority; a decision to only donate to other Jews, thereby excluding non-Jews, is a practice that, were it reversed in a Jewish minority country, would likely be labeled antisemitic. Concern that the process encourages racist and nationalistic ideation has been raised in the past6 and only emphasized by the public pronouncement of some media-savvy kidney donors.7

"What lessons does the Israeli experience hold for the US and other countries, faced as all are, with a shortage of organs for transplant? Conditional living donation exists to a limited extent in the US: DOVE is an organization that works to direct living kidney donation to US army veterans9; Renewal is an organization that encourages and facilitates living donation from Jews to other Jews but also to non-Jews10; in the 1990s an organization called “Jesus Christians” made organ donation one of its precepts.11 But in each of these cases, it is a minority group whose interests are being promoted.


"What now for Matnat Chaim? Given its prominent impact on Israeli transplantation, its allocation policies must be transparent and subject to public comment. Criteria must be medical in nature and religious or political considerations excluded. Fears that as a result living kidney donation rates will plummet are likely exaggerated. "


I can't help reading this discussion while being very aware that Dr. Danovitch is an ardent opponent of compensating kidney donors, for fear that inappropriate transplants would take place if that were allowed.  In much of that discussion, inappropriateness of transplants focuses on possible harm to the (paid) donors, but the donors in the Israeli case are unpaid. Here his concern is that donor autonomy about to whom to give a kidney comes at the expense of physician autonomy in choosing who should receive a transplant, by "medical" criteria. But frequently those criteria have a big component based on waiting time, rather than any special medical considerations. So maybe in general he thinks that privileging the physician's role in this way is worth having fewer organs and consequently more deaths.

Still, I think he has a point about how we perceive what is repugnant. Having minority donors donate to fellow minority recipients seems much less repugnant than having majority donors specify that they aren't interested in donating to minority recipients.

But, speaking of donor autonomy, I'm not sure that there are practical ways around it, since semi-directed donors could always present as fully directed donors to a particular person that some organization had helped them find. So, we may just have to live with the increase in donations and lives saved that donor autonomy can support.


Earlier posts:

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Kidney brouhaha in Israel: is a good deed still good when performed by a shmuck?

I ended that post with this:

"I'll give the last word to a Haaretz op-ed, also in English:

Monday, July 31, 2023

Altruistic kidney donors in Israel

and, here in the U.S.:

Friday, March 12, 2021

Kidneys for Communities

" A new organization, Kidneys for Communities, plans to advocate for living kidney donation by seeking donors who identify with a particular community.  Their come-on is "Put your kidney where your heart is.  Share your spare with someone in your community"

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Directed deceased donation of organs for transplant. (Legal in U.S. but not yet in Europe.)

 It is legal in the U.S. for a deceased donor organ for transplant to be directed to a particular recipient, if the recipient is compatible (and otherwise the organs are allocated as in the usual way for nondirected deceased donation.)  Because compatibility is tricky, directed deceased donation (DDD) is rare (but deceased donor kidneys can potentially be used to start a deceased donor initiated chain of kidney exchange).

But in most of Europe, it turns out, DDD isn't legal. (!) Here's a paper by the European Society of Transplantation's European Platform on Ethical, Legal and Psychosocial Aspects of Organ Transplantation. It cautiously argues that maybe this ban is "one thought too many," and that the ban should be lifted so that carefully regulated DDD would be allowed to increase organ donation in Europe and save more lives.

"When is directed deceased donation justified? Practical, ethical, and legal issues," by David Shaw1,2 , Dale Gardiner3, Rutger Ploeg4, Anne Floden5,6, Jessie Cooper7, Alicia Pérez-Blanco8, Tineke Wind9, Lydia Dijkhuizen10, Nichon Jansen10 and Bernadette Haase-Kromwijk10; on behalf of the ESOT ELPAT Working Group on Deceased Donation, Journal of the Intensive Care Society, 2024.

Abstract: This paper explores whether directed deceased organ donation should be permitted, and if so under which conditions. While organ donation and allocation systems must be fair and transparent, might it be “one thought too many” to prevent directed donation within families? We proceed by providing a description of the medical and legal context, followed by identification of the main ethical issues involved in directed donation, and then explore these through a series of hypothetical cases similar to those encountered in practice. Ultimately, we set certain conditions under which directed deceased donation may be ethically acceptable. We restrict our discussion to the allocation of organs to recipients already on the waiting list.

"The persistent shortage of organs available for transplantation demands fair and objective allocation of the scarce available organs, based on preset transparent and regulated criteria. In most European countries, organs from deceased donors are allocated to patients on the organ waiting list by national Competent Authorities.3 The current worldwide norm is that organs donated after death are considered as an unconditional gift to the patients on the transplant waiting list according to the allocation system. This implies that donors (prior to their death), or their family members (after it), cannot determine to whom the available organs will be assigned, nor exclude any potential recipients.


"In a few countries, like the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and recently Australia, directed deceased donation is possible in restricted cases, since national legislation does not prohibit it. In living donation however, directed donation is permitted in many countries, even when there is no genetic or emotional relationship between the donor and the intended recipient. This inconsistency between the living donation- and deceased donation system has been noted.4

"This paper explores whether directed deceased donation should be allowed, and if so under which conditions.


"The main argument against DDD is that this violates the  basic principle of an altruistic, unconditional gift to society; allowing DDD may turn out to be a “slippery slope” in the direction of conditional donation and discrimination against particular patient groups. Conditional donation could also reduce public support for the transplantation system, since it could reduce transparency and fairness of the system.


"What, then, are the conditions for ethical DDD at the present time?

1. DDD under strict conditions should not be prohibited by legislation or policy.

2. There must be evidence that the donor wanted or would have been willing to direct the organ to a particular family member or close friend.

3. The donor/family should generally not be able to  insist on only donating the organ intended for DDD; where other organs are transplantable there should be a willingness to donate other organs (at least one) to patients on the waiting list to preserve the societal altruistic aspect of donation and diminish the overall effect on the waiting list.

4. DDD should proceed only if there is no patient on the waiting list in extremely urgent need of an organ transplantation to avoid imminent death.

5. DDD should proceed only if there is a reasonable chance of successful transplantation.

6. The intended recipient should be on the waiting list or be under assessment for being included.

"If these conditions are met, the medical team should do their best to facilitate the wishes of the deceased patient and his/her family by enabling DDD to take place. Letting deceased donors direct their organs to loved ones under carefully controlled conditions could further enhance trust in organ donation and transplantation systems, and hence willingness to become a donor."

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Nondirected living kidney donors--Abundant (the movie, in progress)

 Abundant is a movie in the making,  a documentary about altruism, focused on non-directed living kidney donors, who start kidney exchange chains. It isn't done yet, but now they are in the editing process...

"Abundant is a feature-length documentary film about the complex, human experience of giving.  To fully understand giving, Abundant enters the world of extreme altruism.  And there are no more extreme altruists than non-directed living kidney donors.  These rare individuals give a kidney away to a complete stranger.  It’s all risk, no reward.  Or is it? 

"Abundant features true stories of non-directed kidney donors recorded live on stage at the performance art show CrowdSource for Life.  Their stories illustrate the unimaginable impact of extreme giving.  It’s obvious their kidney donations saved another person’s life, but there is so much more involved.

"Insights from experts from the worlds of economics, spirituality, business, the arts, psychology and neuroscience, frame and explain the altruistic psyche. In his interview for Abundant, Buddhist monk Bhante Sujatha described giving with a literal translation from his Sri Lankan language, Sinhala.  In Sinhala, giving means, “It leaves my hand.”  That’s a clear, simple and elegant concept.  Yet so many of us struggle with the genuine act of giving and the abundance required to give openheartedly.

"Through stories, commentary and experiences, Abundant explores how our culture struggles with abundance and what we can do to become more altruistic as a community."


Update: here's a link to join the email list for updates on the movie:

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Frozen embryos are children: Alabama Supreme Court ruling

 The Washington Post has the story, which emphasizes the implications this ruling could have on in-vitro fertilization (IVF).  That would also impact surrogacy, and possibly deceased donor transplantation (depending on how it impacts the definitions of who is alive and who isn't...) 

Frozen embryos are children, Ala. high court says in unprecedented ruling. By Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, February 19, 2024 

"The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday that frozen embryos are people and someone can be held liable for destroying them, a decision that reproductive rights advocates say could imperil in vitro fertilization (IVF) and affect the hundreds of thousands of patients who depend on treatments like it each year.

"The first-of-its-kind ruling comes as at least 11 states have broadly defined personhood as beginning at fertilization in their state laws, according to reproductive rights group Pregnancy Justice, and states nationwide mull additional abortion and reproductive restrictions, elevating the issue ahead of the 2024 elections. Federally, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this term whether to limit access to an abortion drug, the first time the high court will rule on the subject since it overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

"The Alabama case focused on whether a patient who mistakenly dropped and destroyed other couples’ frozen embryos could be held liable in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The court ruled the patient could, writing that it had long held that “unborn children are ‘children’” and that that was also true for frozen embryos, affording the fertilized eggs the same protection as babies under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.


"The push for defining personhood has even affected tax law: Georgia now recognizes an “unborn child” as a dependent after six weeks of pregnancy.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Kidney exchange in the U.S. from 2006-2021

 Here's an interesting look at the (ongoing) development of kidney exchange in the U.S

Temporal trends in kidney paired donation in the United States: 2006-2021 UNOS/OPTN database analysis, by Neetika Garg, Carrie Thiessen, Peter P. Reese, Matthew Cooper, Ruthanne Leishman, John Friedewald, Asif A. Sharfuddin, Angie G. Nishio Lucar, Darshana M. Dadhania, Vineeta Kumar, Amy D. Waterman, and Didier A. Mandelbrot, American Journal of Transplantation,  24, 1, P46-56, JANUARY 2024.

Abstract: Kidney paired donation (KPD) is a major innovation that is changing the landscape of kidney transplantation in the United States. We used the 2006-2021 United Network for Organ Sharing data to examine trends over time. KPD is increasing, with 1 in 5 living donor kidney transplants (LDKTs) in 2021 facilitated by KPD. The proportion of LDKT performed via KPD was comparable for non-Whites and Whites. An increasing proportion of KPD transplants are going to non-Whites. End-chain recipients are not identified in the database. To what extent these trends reflect how end-chain kidneys are allocated, as opposed to increase in living donation among minorities, remains unclear. Half the LDKT in 2021 in sensitized (panel reactive antibody ≥ 80%) and highly sensitized (panel reactive antibody ≥ 98%) groups occurred via KPD. Yet, the proportion of KPD transplants performed in sensitized recipients has declined since 2013, likely due to changes in the deceased donor allocation policies and newer KPD strategies such as compatible KPD. In 2021, 40% of the programs reported not performing any KPD transplants. Our study highlights the need for understanding barriers to pursuing and expanding KPD at the center level and the need for more detailed and accurate data collection at the national level.

"Kidney paired donation (KPD) is rapidly evolving and reshaping the landscape of living donor kidney transplantation (LDKT). Since the initial KPD transplants performed in the United States in 1999,1 the scope of KPD has expanded substantially. With the inclusion of nondirected donor,2 it has progressed from simple 2-way or multiple-way exchanges to nonsimultaneous kidney donor chains3 and, more recently, to advanced and voucher donations.4 Downstream from nondirected donors, chains often conclude with end-chain kidneys allocated to candidates on the deceased kidney donor waitlist without a living donor (LD).5 Historically used to overcome the barrier of ABO/human leukocyte antigens (HLA) incompatibility, KPD is being increasingly used by compatible donor-recipient pairs to obtain more suitable kidneys for the respective recipients.6 KPD programs can be single center or internal, regional, or national.7,8 The largest multicenter or national KPD programs in the United States are the National Kidney Registry,9 the Alliance for Paired Donation,10 the MatchGrid/Medsleuth program,11 and the program operated by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).12 While multicenter KPD often expands the pool of candidates to improve match possibilities, there are examples of very successful single-center programs."

Sunday, February 18, 2024

When "demand can't keep up with supply"

Headlines catch my eye more often than subheadlines, but the story below was the exception that proves the rule (a confusing saying in itself, until you realize that "proves" can mean "tests" as in proof reading...) 

The WSJ reports that pork producers are having a problem that is usually associated with some kinds of production in planned economies: demand can't keep up with supply of pork. It makes you wonder if prices are also an issue...

We’re Not Eating Enough Bacon, and That’s a Problem for the Economy. The American pork industry has become so efficient that demand can’t keep up with supply.  By Patrick Thomas

"The American pork industry has a problem: It makes more tenderloin, ham, sausage and bacon than anybody wants to eat. 

"From giant processors to the farmers who supply them, they are in a predicament largely of their own making. They made production so efficient that demand can’t keep up with supply. "