Archive | November 2018


“The 10th leading cause in America is Suicide.  Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide. Know for every suicide 25 attempts.  Suicide costs the US $ 69  Billion annually.”

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


Suicide in America


Suicide is a major public health problem and a leading cause of death in the United States. The effects of suicide go beyond the person who acts to take his or her life: it can have a lasting effect on family, friends, and communities. This fact sheet, developed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), can help you, a friend, or a family member learn about the signs and symptoms, risk factors and warning signs, and ongoing research about suicide and suicide prevention.

What Is Suicide?

Suicide is when people direct violence at themselves with the intent to end their lives, and they die because of their actions. It’s best to avoid the use of terms like “committing suicide” or a “successful suicide” when referring to a death by suicide as these terms often carry negative connotations.

A suicide attempt is when people harm themselves with the intent to end their lives, but they do not die because of their actions.

Who Is at Risk for Suicide?

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk.

The main risk factors for suicide are:

  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Depression and other mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of a mental health or substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as a family member, peer, or media figure
  • Medical illness
  • Being between the ages of 15 and 24 years or over age 60

Even among people who have risk factors for suicide, most do not attempt suicide. It remains difficult to predict who will act on suicidal thoughts.

Are certain groups of people at higher risk than others?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely to die by suicide than women, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. Men are more likely to use more lethal methods, such as firearms or suffocation. Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide by poisoning.

Also per the CDC, certain demographic subgroups are at higher risk. For example, American Indian and Alaska Native youth and middle-aged persons have the highest rate of suicide, followed by non-Hispanic White middle-aged and older adult males. African Americans have the lowest suicide rate, while Hispanics have the second lowest rate. The exception to this is younger children. African American children under the age of 12 have a higher rate of suicide than White children. While younger preteens and teens have a lower rate of suicide than older adolescents, there has been a significant rise in the suicide rate among youth ages 10 to 14. Suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death for this age group, accounting for 425 deaths per year and surpassing the death rate for traffic accidents, which is the most common cause of death for young people.

Why do some people become suicidal while others with similar risk factors do not?

Most people who have the risk factors for suicide will not kill themselves. However, the risk for suicidal behavior is complex. Research suggests that people who attempt suicide may react to events, think, and make decisions differently than those who do not attempt suicide. These differences happen more often if a person also has a disorder such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and psychosis. Risk factors are important to keep in mind; however, someone who has warning signs of suicide may be in more danger and require immediate attention.

What Are the Warning Signs of Suicide?

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or newly acquiring potentially lethal items (e.g., firearms, ropes)
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

Do People Threaten Suicide to Get Attention?

Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and an alert that someone needs help. Any warning sign or symptom of suicide should not be ignored. All talk of suicide should be taken seriously and requires attention. Threatening to die by suicide is not a normal response to stress and should not be taken lightly.

If You Ask Someone About Suicide, Does It Put the Idea Into Their Head?

Asking someone about suicide is not harmful. There is a common myth that asking someone about suicide can put the idea into their head. This is not true. Several studies examining this concern have demonstrated that asking people about suicidal thoughts and behavior does not induce or increase such thoughts and experiences. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking of killing yourself,” can be the best way to identify someone at risk for suicide.

What Should I Do if I Am in Crisis or Someone I Know Is Considering Suicide?

If you or someone you know has warning signs or symptoms of suicide, particularly if there is a change in the behavior or a new behavior, get help as soon as possible.

Often, family and friends are the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide and can take the first step toward helping an at-risk individual find treatment with someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. If someone is telling you that they are going to kill themselves, do not leave them alone. Do not promise anyone that you will keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. Make sure to tell a trusted friend or family member, or if you are a student, an adult with whom you feel comfortable. You can also contact the resources noted below.

Leading Cause of Death in the United States (2016)
Data Courtesy of CDC
Select Age Groups
Rank 10-14 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 All Ages
1 Unintentional
2 Suicide
3 Malignant
4 Homicide


“Sigmund Freud used to refer to depression as anger turned inward. While many people may regard this as an overly simplistic approach to the most common mental health disorder in the world, there is no doubt that anger plays a significant role in depression.”

Lisa Firestone Ph.D. (

Depression & Anger




Depression Vs. Anger — What does it all mean and What do I do?

Getting the blues  or down in the dumps now and than in one thing but staying in the blues or down in the dumps just sinking deeper over a long period of time can be diagnosed as clinical depression. Clinical depression presents many forms and symptoms. It is not something just to be brushed off, assuming it will rectify itself in a while. One of the most common symptoms noted when a person suffers from clinical depression is anger. Whether it’s uncontrollable anger toward oneself or outward aggression toward others, it’s clinically proven that depression and anger run hand in hand.

Do you find yourself feeling angry more often than usual, or more often than not, depression could be to blame. Anger is a common symptom of depression, which can lurk beneath the surface of any man, woman, or child as well.

Depressive disorders come in many different types, but each type has its own unique symptoms and treatments. Major depression, the most common type of a depressive disorder, is characterized by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list) that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime. Mental health professionals use this checklist of specific symptoms to determine whether major depression exists or not. Depression is also rated by your diagnosing physician or mental health professional in terms of its severity — mild, moderate, or severe. Severe depression is the most serious type. A less severe type of depression, dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives. Another type of depression is experienced as a part of bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness. Not nearly as prevalent as other forms of depressive disorders, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. When in the depressed cycle, an individual can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, the individual may be overactive, overtalkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, the individual in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees

Risk Factors

Numerous risk factors can lead to feelings of depression and anger in an individual. Some of these risk factors include but are not limited to: loneliness, financial strain, unemployment, alcohol or drug abuse, marital or family problems, or lack of a social support network. Depression and anger can also be influenced by childhood trauma, or it can be hereditary.


Anger manifested with depression is no ordinary anger. It can be all-consuming feelings of anger and hatred against one’s self, others or the situation that is causing the depression. One of the first signs of depression in a teenager may be a sudden onset of uncontrollable anger. In turn, constant feelings of anger can also trigger a response of depression. Also noted with depression are a tendency to turn away from family and friends, poor performance at work or school, lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, insomnia and hopelessness

Symptoms of Depression

Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms, some many. Severity of symptoms varies with individuals and also varies over time.


  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic painMania
  • Symptoms of Mania (for Bipolar Disorder)
  • Abnormal or excessive elation
  • Unusual irritability
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Grandiose notions
  • Increased talking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased sexual desire
  • Markedly increased energy
  • Poor judgment
  • Inappropriate social behavior



“Dog lovers know how much warmth and comfort their canine companions add to their lives. But they might not know that a growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help improve heart health.”

Harvard Medical School – Harvard Health Publishing (

Dogs are more than great pets, they aid in our health.





Goldsmiths College released a study that showed more dogs will approach someone who’s crying or in distress than someone who is not. This shows that dogs are empathetic and are eager to help comfort humans in pain.

Their sense of smell can do even more than we think; dogs can also detect low blood sugar in their master. They will either alert the person that the sugar has dropped or, if a diabetic attack has already occurred, will bark and bark and bark in an attempt to alert somebody to come help, thus working to save the diabetic’s life.

Some dogs are also able to detect seizures in humans.  Recent research has shown certain dogs are able to warn seizure patients that they’re going to experience an attack, sometimes hours before it happens. Nobody yet knows how they do it, or why only certain dogs can do it. They also can’t be trained to do it, so if you feel you need a seizure-sniffing dog, you need to make sure you have yourself a natural.

Due to their incredible sense of smell, dogs have shown anywhere from 70 to 99% accuracy (depending on the study) when tasked with detecting lung cancer in a nearby patient.

Fibromyalgia is a debilitating disease that can leave its victim in constant pain. Studies have shown that the Xolo dog’s body temperature can be used as a kind of therapeutic heating pad, due to it being a hairless species. Of course, unlike heating pads, a Xolo will bond with you, snuggle with you and keep you warm as long as you need, leading to both external comfort and internal happiness.

In a surprising twist, it might actually be beneficial to get a dog for your baby, even if they’re allergic. Studies have shown that children under the age of one who live with a dog are much less likely to develop the chronic, and annoying, skin condition called eczema.

Dogs can highly make humans more social.  The British Medical Journal has concluded that dogs act as “social catalysts,” who help people get out more, approach others more easily, and overall reduce isolation. This is actually just as important as the basic companionship that dogs provide, as human social support is beneficial to human health and the dog.

Simply by being themselves, dogs have been shown to help reduce PTSD among soldiers. In addition to providing the usual doggie companionship, they have been shown to help sufferers come out of their shells, be less numb and angry, and improve their social life as well.

A dog kissing you obviously feels wonderful, but it might actually have physical benefits too. Studies have shown that saliva, both the human and doggie variety, can help stimulate nerves and muscles, and get oxygen moving again, which is the secret ingredient in helping wounds to heal. In short, “licking your wounds” is not just a cliché after all.

Almost certainly due to the positive vibes and good feelings that dogs bring out of their masters, even in the worst of times, studies have found that older people who own dogs average at least one less doctor appointment per year than those who do not.

Not that they are the cure but preliminary studies by the American Heart Association are revealing that dog owners have less risk of heart disease than those without dogs. The reasons given are the exercise that owners get when walking their dogs, plus the presence of the dog helps the owner deal with stress better. The evidence is mostly anecdotal right now, but dog owners know that it’s all true.

Day-to-day depression, or even more serious chronic depression, is easier to handle with the love of a dog, studies show. Simply by having them around, and knowing that even at our worst, somebody loves us unconditionally and is eager to see us happy again, we’re given a reason to get up and keep going.

Autistic children often find the world very stressful, in ways that the non-autistic can’t understand. Luckily, a dog can. Studies are showing that bringing a therapy dog into an autistic household helps to reduce the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the autistic child’s body. This both calms the child down and shows him that he has a friend.

Bullying has been a huge problem for a long time, and people are finally doing something about it. Dogs, too. Experimental programs have been launched that bring dogs into schools to promote empathy, with the lesson that you shouldn’t treat people badly, because you wouldn’t do it to a dog. Thus far, kids have been able to make the connection, which will hopefully continue to be the case.

Dogs have shown that they can help keep dementia sufferers on schedule, reminding them when its time for medicine and when to see the doctor. In addition, when the owner experiences frustration over the state of their mind, the “dementia dog” is right there to support them, comfort them, and remind them that someone’s always there for them.




“When kidneys fail, your body may have difficulty filtering your blood and keeping your body chemically balanced. Dialysis is a treatment process that cleans the body of unwanted toxins, waste products and excess fluids.”

Fresenius Kidney Care (

Pros and Cons to Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis.



There is not always a simple easy answer for a patient that has chronic renal disease regarding which choice or option of dialysis that is best for him or her ; so let’s investigate the options & know you can always change the choice of dialysis you initially go on.  But remember you are going from a tube placed in your circulatory system to a tube now in your abdomen or visa versa (depending on what your first choice of dialysis was) and that both tubes take time to be ideally ready and final for dialysis after inserted.  So definitely take consideration in your choice both for your body and time it takes to allow the tube (especially in hemodialysis) in getting at its optimal level or state in being used:

  Advantages Limitations
Peritoneal Dialysis ·Flexible lifestyle and independence.

-Time commitment: usually less than 10 hrs per week

-Time allotment: as per patient convenience

-No needles

-Simple techniques: easy learning

-Continuous therapy: minimal fluctuation of symptoms

-Once a month clinic, so no need to travel repeatedly

-Easy personal travel, pack bags and go

-Can use APD: connect at night and go to sleep

Limitations are you need to weave this into lifestyle

-Abdominal catheter

-Does have passive sugar intake, so need to watch for weight gain

-Needs storage space of around half a closet (supplies)

Home Hemodialysis -Flexible lifestyle and independence

-Time commitment: based on therapy ~ 22 hours a week

-Time allotment: at patient convenience

-5-6 times a week so less symptomatic fluctuations

-Much higher freedom in dietary and fluid intake

-May eliminate the need for BP and some of the other medications

-Easy to travel with, pack and go..

-Needs a caregiver at least for the duration of dialysis 5-6 times a week

-Higher commitment compared to hemodialysis

-Need to weave into lifestyle

-Needs storage space of around half a closet

-Does need AVF creation and needle access

In Center Hemodialysis -Dialysis done at clinic by dialysis technicians and nurses  

-Rigid schedule, limited flexibility

-Time commitment: ~20 hours a week

-Time allotment: no flexibility, as per dialysis unit

-Need prior authorization and arrangement for travel

-Cannot travel to region not having dialysis clinic

-Significant fluctuation of symptoms

-Does need AVF creation and needle access

-Need transportation arrangements


More than 1/2 a million patients in USA suffer from stage V CKD commonly referred to as Renal Failure (or End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)) with nearly similar number of patients suffering with the pre-dialysis, stage IV CKD. The management of ESRD involves either replacement of the lost kidney function through the kidney transplantation, or clearing body of the accumulating toxins through maintenance dialysis. Unfortunately, kidney transplantation is not a viable option for a majority of ESRD patients due to a limited availability of donor organs, further compounded by the fact that many of the dialysis patients are medically unsuitable for transplantation. Thus, maintenance dialysis forms mainstay of the treatment for this large majority of the ESRD patients.

  1.  Peritoneal Dialysis (PD): This has been argued as one of the simplest form of dialysis with limited life style interruptions and high degree of freedom. In this form of dialysis a synthetic tube is placed in the abdominal cavity which then allows dialysis by exchange of dialysis fluid at regular intervals. It can be tailored to individual needs so that the patient can perform this at night while asleep with the help of a small machine called “Cycler” or during daytime by performing around four manual exchanges, each lasting around 15-30 minutes. Because of its simplicity, PD is many times a chosen modality for persons with busy lifestyle, active family responsibilities and significant time constraints.
  2. Home Hemodialysis (HHD): Advances in dialysis technologies in recent times has highly simplified the above-mentioned form of hemodialysis allowing it to be performed in the comforts of patients’ home. Development of smaller dialysis machine that can be placed on a nightstand; and simpler blood tubing and dialyzer connections, has resulted in increasing number of patients choosing this modality of dialysis to preserve their independence and high functional status. Though the typical duration for individual patient varies, these form of dialysis can be tailored for an individual’s needs with 5-6 times a week frequency for dialysis with each individual session duration ranging from 3-6 hours. The shorter versions called short daily hemodialysis (SDHD) whereas the longer versions are typically performed at night and thus called nocturnal hemodialysis (NHD). The typical home hemodialysis allows a much higher clearance compared to other forms of dialysis and thus gives greater freedom in terms of dietary restriction and life style choice.
  3. In Center Hemodialysis (HD): Where blood is taken out of the body through a complex set of tubes, run through a filter called dialyzer, cleaned off various impurities, and returned back to the patient. During its passage through the filter, the blood comes in contact with dialysate, which mirrors the body fluid except for the presence of impurities.  This is conventionally performed in dialysis centers across various medical and commercial facilities and typically involves patients receiving dialysis three times a week (either on Monday, Wednesday and Friday OR Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) with four hour session each time. This is a relatively complex form of dialysis with rigid treatment structure and limited flexibility in terms of patients’ time, mobility and transportation. Additionally, this involves creation and maintenance of vascular access such as dialysis catheter or creation of AV fistula or graft, in either arm or groin to access high flows of blood needed to perform dialysis.

It is uniformly agreed that no single type of dialysis (home Vs In-center dialysis, or Hemo Vs peritoneal dialysis) is superior to others in terms of hard clinical endpoints e.g. mortality or cardiovascular deaths.  However, home dialysis modalities (both PD and HHD) provide significant advantages in multiple outcome parameters important to the management of patients with ESRD namely quality of life, freedom of travel, greater liberty from dietary restrictions, preservation of residual kidney function etc.

Historically, analyses of various patient cohorts in US have consistently revealed that; a privileged patient cohort more frequently chooses a home dialysis. This in many circumstances have been reflected by higher use of peritoneal dialysis in patients that are Caucasians, patients with higher education, patient under the care of nephrologists during the pre-ESRD period, patients receiving pre-dialysis education etc. In fact, nearly half of the patients when provided with a comprehensive pre-dialysis education (CPE) opt for home dialysis. Additionally both individual kidney physician surveys and recommendations of various professional medical societies now recommend a higher utilization of home dialysis. Despite these, only a minority of ESRD patients in US are on Home dialysis modalities. Lack of patient awareness due to lack of pre-dialysis education and scarcity of medical experts performing the home dialysis therapies are the two principle reasons for this underutilization of Home dialysis therapies.

Considering these facts, University of Florida and DCI have established a specialized clinic and education set up where a comprehensive pre-dialysis education (CPE) will be provided to the patients with stage IV (pre-dialysis) CKD along with their multispecialty care for various ailments of CKD. This clinic will put a special emphasis on the comprehensive care of CKD patients with special attention towards their dietary needs, their social and pharmacological concerns and their awareness and needs for decision making for their eventual dialysis or transplant therapies.

In conclusion of renal failure and if you are chronic, it’s not always easy to decide which type of treatment is best for you. Your decision depends on your medical condition, lifestyle, and personal likes and dislikes.

**Discuss the pros and cons of each with your health care team. If you start one form of treatment and decide you’d like to try another, talk it over with your doctor. The key is to learn as much as you can about your choices. With that knowledge, you and your doctor will choose a treatment that suits you best.**

I hope this article help you in some small way or more in dealing with your chronic renal failure.  Know your not alone and have many sites and places in giving you direction and support!

  Always do a Comparison of dialysis methods :  Hemodialysis and Peritoneal dialysis:    
What is usually involved            HEMODIALYSIS

  • Before hemodialysis treatments can begin, your doctor will need to create a site where blood can flow in and out of your body.
  • Hemodialysis uses a man-made membrane called a dialyzer to clean your blood. You are connected to the dialyzer by tubes attached to your blood vessels.
  • You will probably go to a hospital or dialysis center on a fairly set schedule. Hemodialysis usually is done 3 days a week and takes 3 to 5 hours a day.
  • You may be able to do dialysis at home. Home hemodialysis requires training for you and at least one other person. Your home may need some changes so that the equipment will work. You may have choices in how often and how long you can have dialysis, such as every day for shorter periods, long nighttime dialysis, or several times a week for 3 to 5 hours a day.

  • Your will have a catheter placed in your belly (dialysis access) before you begin dialysis.
  • Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your belly, which is called the peritoneal membrane, to filter your blood.
  • The process of doing peritoneal dialysis is called an exchange. You will usually complete 4 to 6 exchanges every day.
  • You will be taught how to do your treatment at home, on your own schedule.
  • It is most often done by trained health professionals who can watch for any problems.
  • It allows you to be in contact with other people having dialysis, which may give you emotional support.
  • You don’t have to do it yourself, as you do with peritoneal dialysis.
  • You do it for a shorter amount of time and on fewer days each week than peritoneal dialysis.
  • Home hemodialysis can give you more flexibility in when, where, and how long you have dialysis.
  • It gives you more freedom than hemodialysis. It can be done at home or in any clean place. You can do it when you travel. You may be able to do it while you sleep. You can do it by yourself.
  • It doesn’t require as many food and fluid restrictions as hemodialysis.
  • It doesn’t use needles.
  • It causes you to feel tired on the day of the treatments.
  • It can cause problems such as low blood pressure and blood clots in the dialysis access.
  • It increases your risk of bloodstream infections.
  • Home hemodialysis may require changes to your home. You and a friend will need to complete training.
  • The procedure may be hard for some people to do.
  • It increases your risk for an infection of the lining of the belly, called peritonitis


” “Transplant tourists” are traveling to established destinations to obtain readily accessible organs for transplantation, available from the poor of that destination country who sell mostly kidneys, but in some instances, a lobe of the liver or a cornea. These practices have been well known for more than a decade.”

Francis L. Delmonico American Society of Nephrology

Kidney Transplant Tourism.

 Kidney Tranplant Tourism

 Kidney Transplant Tourism 2

When people languish on a wait-list for a kidney transplant, they may start to consider a desperate measure: Traveling to a country where they can buy a donor kidney on the black market.

But beyond the legal and ethical pitfalls, experts say, the health risks are not worth it.

Most countries ban the practice, sometimes called “transplant tourism,” and it has been widely condemned on ethical grounds. Now a new study highlights another issue: People who buy a donor kidney simply do not fare as well.

Researchers in Bahrain found that people who traveled abroad to buy a kidney — to countries like the Philippines, India, Pakistan, China and Iran — sometimes developed serious infections.

Those infections included the liver diseases hepatitis B and C, as well as cytomegalovirus, which can be life-threatening to transplant recipients, the investigators said.

Also, people who bought donor kidneys also faced higher rates of surgical complications and organ rejection, versus those who received a legal transplant in their home country.

Dr. Amgad El Agroudy, of Arabian Gulf University, was to present the findings Friday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), in San Diego.

It’s not clear how common it is for U.S. patients to take a chance on traveling abroad to buy a black-market kidney, according to Dr. Gabriel Danovitch, director of kidney transplantation at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“We really have no way of knowing what the numbers are,” said Danovitch, who was not involved in the study.

“But,” he added, “my sense is that the numbers are fairly small, as the dangers of transplant tourism are becoming more and more clear.”

Why is it a risky proposition? According to Danovitch, there are a few broad reasons: The paid organ donors may not be properly screened, and the recipients may not be good candidates for a transplant, to name two.

“In a paid system, the prime focus is on making money,” Danovitch said. “Centers that are willing to do these don’t really care what happens to the donors or recipients after the transplant.”

For people with advanced chronic kidney failure, the treatment options are dialysis or a transplant. But there are not enough donor organs to meet the need. In the United States, nearly one million people have end-stage kidney disease, and there are roughly 102,000 people on the waiting list for a transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Kidney transplants can come from a living or deceased donor, but living-donor transplants are more likely to be successful, according to U.S. health officials.

It doesn’t take long to get tired of spending 12 hours a week on hemodialysis, or even more time on peritoneal dialysis (PD) —not to mention complications like line infections and access problems. But a new, healthy kidney would put an end to all that. A transplant sounds like it would be well worth the risk of surgery and the trouble of taking anti-rejection medicines, and Medicare statistics show that it actually costs less in the long run than continued dialysis. When can you check into the hospital, you ask?

Unfortunately over 80,000 people in the United States are already waiting for a new kidney and in 2008 only 16,517 got one. Maybe you don’t have a compatible donor in your family, or you’ve been told that you are “not a transplant candidate” for one of several reasons. You’re a resourceful person who knows that persistence pays off, and you start looking for ways to shorten the wait or get around the rules that say you don’t qualify for a transplant. Kidneys from living donors are almost always preferable to those from recently deceased donors. If you don’t have a friend or family member willing to donate, what about getting one where the laws against buying an organ are less strictly enforced? Medical tourism is booming these days. Maybe you know somebody who had surgery overseas, either to avoid a waiting list or just because the price is lower there. The same international pharmaceutical countries produce medicines for everybody these days, so how big a difference can there be? Nephrologists in the US say it’s a common story: a dialysis patient misses treatments or appointments for a few days or several weeks, then comes to their office asking for refills on anti-rejection medicines…with pill bottles labeled in Urdu, Chinese or Farsi as well as in English. Did they get a good deal or what?  Unfortunately this may not be the bargain people hoped for.

At UCLA Jagbir Gill, MD, and associates studied 33 patients who had received transplants overseas, and found they had much worse results than patients who received transplants in this country. Screening of paid kidney donors was less thorough, with problems like hepatitis overlooked. Early organ rejection was twice as common and infections frequent; Dr. Gill recalls patients who went “directly from the airport to the emergency room” due to severe infections or transplant failure.

In a similar study in Canada, where waiting periods for transplants are even longer, experiences were similar. Jeffrey Zaltzman, MD, reports infections common in the countries where the transplant was done were a big problem in medical tourists. One 78-year-old gentleman returned from Pakistan with a surgical wound that reopened spontaneously; he died a few weeks later of cardiovascular problems that might have disqualified him for a transplant at home. The cost to paid organ donors can be even greater. Poor people who sell a kidney, sometimes for as little as $800 according to the World Health Organization, face health problems like hypertension and worsening of their own kidney functions—provided, of course, that their surgery goes well. Since most live in countries where even blood pressure checks are rare, complications that develop after they leave the hospital may go undetected until it is too late for the patient. Donors in the United States frequently can have kidneys removed with very small incisions. Third World donors, however, generally end up with wounds up to 14 inches long that may take months to heal, making them unable to do the manual labor most depend on. Chronic pain and disability are common, points out Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who has extensively studied and reported on transplant practices from Brazil to China. And reports of organs coming from executed prisoners in China are even more worrisome. Details of where donors come from and which hospitals and doctors will do the surgery are rarely available to “clients” and their families ahead of time. While paying a donor for an organ is illegal everywhere except Iran, “international transplant coordinators” have no laws banning what they do—bringing clients together with hospitals in other countries. And as the WHO’s Dr. Luc Noel points out, “None of the brokers ever mention the costs—long-term health issues, chronic pain, inability to perform manual labor—that are borne by these poor organ vendors.”