In 2001 more than 6,000 people in the U.S. died while waiting for an organ transplant. The dire shortfall of organs compared with patient demand is growing as the population ages and more people experience organ failure. Although new immunosuppressive drugs have helped bridge the gap by allowing surgeons to transplant an organ that is a less than perfect match, there just aren't enough organs to go around.
The reasons vary. Some people have religious or cultural objections to organ donation; many families simply have a tough time making a decision at a time of personal tragedy. Living donors--those who volunteer a kidney or parts of their liver or lungs--are understandably reluctant: they must undergo potentially life-threatening surgery and put their own future health at risk.
This article was originally published with the title A Pound of Flesh.