Could the Rich and Famous Game the Kidney Transplant List? That's Complicated.

Jezebel | Caroline Weinberg

If current reports on his health are to be believed, Lamar Odom may be in need of a new kidney. But unlike the 100,000+ Americans currently waiting for a kidney transplant, Odom is rich, famous, and backed by one of today’s most powerful entertainment dynasties. When it comes to organ donation, are the rich and famous stuck in the same frightening holding pattern as the rest of the people in need, or is there a way for them to jump the line?

As of around midday today, there are roughly 122, 554 Americans currently waiting for an organ transplant. Most of those people are waiting for a kidney, with a new person added to the kidney transplant list every 14 minutes. The waiting list for deceased donor kidneys encompases everyone in need of a transplant — young, old, black, white, rich, poor. And now—maybe—Lamar Odom.

First, a (very) brief anatomy lesson: most people are born with two kidneys. In a pinch, you can generally adapt to living with only one — the remaining kidney will grow and take on part of the function of the one you lost. Among other things, this means that living people can serve as donors, giving away one of the set and continuing on to lead comparatively healthy lives. People in renal failure and in need of a transplant can receive a new kidney in one of two ways: deceased or living donor. Continue reading