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The Transplant Committee

Clicking on any italicized word in this version of The Transplant Committee reading opens a new browser window containing the word's definition in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

Imagine that you are one of the members of a hospital committee that must decide which of 4 needy patients will receive a liver that has just become available for transplant. The liver must be implanted within the next 12 hours or it will become unusable. All 4 patients need the transplant, and are "good matches" for the available liver. These four people have a rare tissue type, and it is unlikely that another liver compatible with their bodies will become available for several months. The only information you have is that given on this sheet. After discussion, your committee must select the recipient by a majority vote. Be able to explain for whom you voted and why you did so.

Patient #1

Male, 65 years old, married, 4 adult children, wife is dependent on him for in-home care of a debilitating illness

Liver damage caused by cirrhosis resulting from long term alcoholism

Prognosis without a transplant: death from cirrhosis within 6 months

Prognosis with a transplant: should live a normal life span if he can quit drinking alcohol; if not, the cirrhosis will recur and the new liver could be damaged, although perhaps not within his expected lifetime

Patient #2

Female, 35 years old, married with 2 children aged 8 and 6

Liver damage caused by a chronic disease

Prognosis without a transplant: death from liver failure within a month

Prognosis with a transplant: should live a normal life for another 15 years until the disease destroys her new liver

Patient #3

Male, 21 years old, unmarried

Liver damage caused by eating a poisonous mushroom

Prognosis without a transplant: death within the week

Prognosis with a transplant: should live a normal life span free of liver disease

Patient #4

Female, 28 years old, married with 5 children aged 2 to 10, a legal immigrant farm worker

Liver damage caused by exposure to a toxic chemical sprayed on the fruit field in which she was picking produce

Prognosis without a transplant: death from liver damage within the month

Prognosis with a transplant: should live a normal life span


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original web posting: Thursday, June 8, 2000
last modified: Saturday, July 31, 2004