Earlier this year I participated in an online seminar presented by a surgeon from Johns Hopkins regarding advances in liver tumor treatment. My ears perked up when he said that someone like me, whose cancer did not begin in the liver would NOT be a candidate for a liver transplant. My cancer started in my pancreas and metastasized to my liver — just like Steve Jobs. But Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, got a liver transplant in the U.S. a couple of years ago.
Well, it seems that his transplant shined a light on some inequalities in the transplant world. But according to American Medical News, the controversy hasn’t been about where his cancer began but where he applied for transplants. “[He] did not get his new organ at nearby Stanford University Medical Center — or anywhere else in California. Instead, he traveled more than 2,000 miles to Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tenn., where the wait list for a liver is about 80% shorter, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing.”
Is it fair to apply for a transplant at multiple hospitals? Are well-off people better able to get on more lists? Do people lacking resources who only apply in their neighborhood fall back in line behind people from elsewhere in the country who have the means to get onto more lists? And what about this restriction the Hopkins’ surgeon mentioned? Would someone like me with metastases in my liver be turned away, and if so, how did Steve Jobs get the transplant?
These are some of the questions being asked. I’m torn on the issue, but not too much. Maybe if I didn’t have tumors inside my body I’d say that we should restrict applications to make the process more equitable, but I have a different frame of reference. If one day I need to get an organ transplant to stay alive, you better believe I will do everything possible (within legal limits of course) to get that organ. I have no doubt that Steve Jobs felt the same way.
What’s your take?