NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 10, 2005

An organization called LifeSharers is taking a new approach to solving the problem of too few organ donors. In a process called "directed donation," a person agrees to donate their organs when they die, but in return for becoming an organ donor they are given first rights to receive an organ from another member, should they need one.

LifeSharers was founded in 2002 by Dave Undis from Nashville, Tenn., who puzzled over the problem of too few donors. Consider:

  • As of October 2005, 89,464 people were on the national transplant waiting list.
  • So far this year, 16,448 transplants have been performed and 8,490 people have donated organs.
  • Last year, 6,663 people died while waiting for an organ transplant; 17 people die each day while waiting to receive a transplant in the United States.

Directed donation gives people a reason to become a donor by rewarding them with a promise that they will have greater access should they ever need a transplant. But very few members of LifeSharers are in need of a transplant, says Undis. LifeSharers has about 3,200 members nationwide but only 23 are awaiting a transplant.

When a member dies -- something that has yet to happen -- the organs are to be offered to any LifeSharers members in need. If there is no match, then those outside the network can receive the organs.

Critics say the group is creating a special class of people ahead of others in line for organ transplant. Undis says that is exactly what LifeSharers is designed to do but the class is not restrictive - anyone can join and anyone can benefit.

Source: Joan Morris, "Organ Donors Group Offers Quid Pro Quo," Contra Costa Times, November 7, 2005.

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