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New Circle of Organ Donation Emerging in Utah

New Circle of Organ Donation Emerging in Utah

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Paul Nelson, KSL NewsradioThere is a new way to sign up to be an organ donor. Many Utahns say they believe it can help save lives, but it's causing a controversy with some health officials.

For Sandy teacher Leslie Alford, her interest in this program started with an e-mail. "I get hundreds of e-mails, and I got one from something called LifeSharers, and I had never heard of it before," Alford says. But, it mentioned something close to her heart. "It mentioned that it was about organ donation, and I'm a very avid promoter of that."

This is how LifeSharers works. If you sign up for the program, you sign to be an organ donor, but you're putting an extra condition on your donation. You agree to let your "organs be donated first to members of the LifeSharers Network." That's a quote from the organization's donor card. If no member of the network is a suitable match for the organ, then it would go to someone else. Alford says she feels people who agree to be organ donors should get priority over people who don't.

Alford says, "I was really intrigued, and I thought, ‘Wow, that's a great way to reward people who are being generous.' That's my thought."

But, this program is not being widely received by everyone. Alford says even her son is against the program, calling it selfish. She says her son believes medical professionals should pick who gets organs, and he's not alone.

Intermountain Donor Services Public Relations Coordinator Ben Dieterle says his group is opposed to the program for several reasons. "LifeSharers is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist," Dieterle says. Number one, he says the amount of people who agree to be a donor before the time of death in one way or another is very high.

"Eighty-five percent of the people in Utah are donating, so I don't think that there's a problem that needs to be solved," Dieterle says. Besides, Dieterle says, there may be a good reason someone won't donate. He says some religions oppose it, and many transplant recipients are not allowed to donate anyway.

"Transplants go to the people who need them the most. That's how doctors base it, and doctors are in the business of trying to save lives, not try and determine everyone's motive," Dieterle says. Plus, he says medical officials get their donor information from the Utah Donor Registry, and doctors probably won't consult another database anyway. "The whole LifeSharer thing of trying to do a parallel registry, it really doesn't work," he says.

But, he says he can't fully fault LifeSharers. Dieterle say their hearts are in the right place. Meanwhile people like Alford say they support anything that tries to convince people to sign up for organ donation.

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