Saturday, March 18, 2006

Kidneys and other body parts

For some reason I'm coming across a lot more body-parts stories than usual the last day or two. Maybe they have always been there and I only just noticed because I'm having a bout with what the eye doctor calls corneal dystrophy in my left eye, but I don't think so. Lookit this...

Virginia Postrel writes that this is National Kidney Month.

Two posts earlier she linkd to a story about how kidney donations can be on the rise thanks to an innovative program at Massachusetts General Hospital that enables friends of kidney patients needing a new organ to donate their otherwise incompatible organs to a different patient in need in a quid pro quo arrangement resulting in compatible organs for two.

But last week, Borchert saved her friend's life by giving a kidney to Krafton, a man she did not know, in the first test of a system that brings together strangers to exchange organs for transplant. At the same moment that surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital began removing Borchert's kidney for Krafton, another surgical team at New York Presbyterian Hospital started taking a kidney from Krafton's friend, Steve Proulx, to implant in Borchert's friend, who asked to remain anonymous.

Virginia Postrel knows whereof she speaks because she is a donor herself. There is an interesting political spin in a great story by Amity Shlaes.

Okay, then.
Just a while ago I came across another kidney story at BoingBoing. The link and story is about a South Korean muscal being produced by someone who left North Korea. It's an interesting story, but the part that stuck in my head was this little blurb...

Oh, and the director, he had to put up his kidney as collateral to put the show on. If he can pay them back by next month, it won't be removed.

Kidney for collateral? Imagine that. Something seems not quite right about that. It recalls Shylock's pound of flesh from The Merchant of Venice.

But college coeds are raising money by selling their eggs.

At least one guy was so angry about something he cut off his own penis and threw it at the cops. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase pissed off, doesn't it?

And finally, also via BoingBoing, a just-published book about the cadaver business, Body Brokers.

I don't think it is my imagination. There really seems to be a rash of stories about body parts and such. Hey, I even know personally a young woman who just went through the egg-donation procedure. And when I asked the eye doctor about a prosthetic cornea (I knew that cataract surgery routinely implants a factory-made lens that enables the patient to see better than they did before surgery) he replied that there was no need. It seems cornea transplants have such a high success rate that there is no demand for factory-make products.

Is it any wonder that Aubrey de Grey believes the next generation might live to 150 years, and the first human to reach the age of 1000 might already be born?

Living indefinitely, or at least hundreds of years, is not an outrageous scientific proposition, said Cambridge University scientist Aubrey de Grey.

Achieving what he called "life-span escape velocity" by always staying a couple of decades ahead of death is theoretically possible, although probably not for another half century.

For those of us in the retirement living/ gerontology setting that is what I call real job security.

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