For my little audience of readers following health care reform, today I came across three excellent links.
The first two are brief public radio features about organ and tissue donation.
I am well-informed, but I learned new information from both.
?Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue (Seven minutes)
?Calculating The Value Of Human Tissue Donation (Thirteen minurtes)
These features by Joseph Shapiro and Sandra Bartlett are both excellent. The second and longer of the two shows a dark side of a horrendously profitable business having as much to do with generating business profits as delivering of health care.
"When you die, you don't need your skin anymore. But that 6-year-old burn victim, lying in the hospital, could really use it," says Truitt. "Your heart valves can go to a father of four who's having some serious heart issues and without those valves could die. By giving what you no longer need, you're still helping and in a way, you're kind of still living on."
Still, while that may sound like he's endorsing tissue donation, this one-time industry insider no longer feels that way - at least, for now.
"I've struggled with that decision for many years now, and the answer is no: I will not donate my tissues," he says. "Tissue donation, at the base level, at what I described of helping somebody else live a better life is a phenomenal thing. But unfortunately, just as easy as your tissues can go to something like that, they can also go to penile implants, for example."
The human tissue industry is full of contradictions like that. Tissue can save or better someone's life, but sometimes it will go to plump up lips and smooth wrinkles.
It starts with an act of generosity. Families, like the Truitts, donate bodies. But that altruism can turn to profit. Tissue companies - by the industry's own estimates - make more than $1 billion a year.
It's estimated that the tissue off of a single body can generate revenues of $80,000 or more.
Tissue grafts help 50 times more people than the number who receive organ donations, and yet it's a little known and lightly regulated business.
?This morning's Washington Journal dedicated a forty-minute segment to Health Care Costs, a rich and informative discussion with thoughtful callers interacting with C-CPAN host Steve and Amanda Bennett, a Newsweek contributor whose book, The Cost of Hope, has just been published. This is a totally engaging and informative contribution to the C-SPAN Video Library.
There is no way to summarize this program, but as viewers listen to the discussion they need to let the COSTS of health care never leave their consciousness. Costs are not the main subject but this program underscores better than anything I can say how and why the most expensive part of health care in America is concentrated in the last weeks and months of life. At one point, for example, she mentions that her late husband had received seventy-six CT scans. Words fail me when I try to coment on that.