Money, Clout No Help in Transplant Quest

August 2005

Sunday's Denver Post had an extensive article on Denver lawyer and power honcho Steve Farber's battle with kidney disease. For a year and a half, while his disease and condition worsened, Steve tried all avenues for a kidney. He didn't seek special treatment or advancement on the transplant list, but others did on his behalf. No go. One place money and clout have no influence is an organ transplant list.

The rules of organ transplants in the U.S. are clear. Social status, wealth, race and other subjective factors don't play a role in determining eligibility for an organ. Once someone has qualified for a transplant, an organ recipient is placed on regional and national lists. The wait for an organ can last between one and six years, depending on the organ needed and blood and tissue type. The wait varies from region to region. "There's no way to move up the list. You can be rich or poor. When the time comes you will get your organ transplant," said Dr. Igal Kam, chief transplant surgeon at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.

Steve's options boiled down to going to Turkey for a possibly illegal transplant, or allowing his 31-year old son Greg, to donate his. Ultimately, Steve accepted Greg's offer, and within a few months, was back at the top of his game....both at work, on the tennis court and fulfilling his philanthropic commitments. But, he hasn't forgotten how difficult it is for the ailing to get the transplant that can save their lives.

His death-defying battle with kidney disease prompted Farber to launch the Denver-based Transplant Foundation, which Farber says will raise millions to increase awareness about organ donorship, fund science and research and influence public policy. With former colleague Harlan Abrahams, Farber is also co-authoring a book on the subject, titled, "The Peasant and the Power Broker: Journeys Through Organ Transplant Realities." There are more than 60,000 people waiting for kidneys in the U.S., and each year fewer than 15,000 of the organs are available for transplant. An estimated 3,300 Americans died waiting for kidney transplants in 2003.