Social Work and Transplantation of Human Organs

Social Work and Transplantation of Human Organs

Social Work and Transplantation of Human Organs

Social Work and Transplantation of Human Organs

Synopsis

The possibility of treating patients with organ replacement therapy has created a new frontier in medical care. Hospitals have to deal with such vital issues as selecting potential recipients of transplants, ensuring equity in allocating organs, pre- and peri-transplantation care of patients, and post-transplantation follow-up of organ recipients. The decisions pertaining to these issues often fall to social workers, who, with their bifocal concern for individuals and society, have significant contributions to make. Here, Dhooper reviews the contributions of the few social workers in this field and suggests ways of improving their work, consolidating their professional gains, and maximizing their impact. Dhooper discusses all aspects of organ transplantation, and explores and proposes new social work roles and appropriate skills for involvement at the individual, organizational, and community levels. He deals with the larger moral, societal, economic, and technical issues, as well as the here-and-now concerns of the social worker. Recommended for social workers trained for practice in the 1990s and beyond, and particularly those specializing in health and mental health social work.

Excerpt

One of the miracles of modern medical science is the replacement of diseased parts of the human body with healthier ones through organ transplantation. Organ transplantation is turning human fantasy into reality. Although successful transplantations in the United States have a history of more than 40 years, the achievements of this field have come into bold relief only in the past few years. The transplantation of most organs has successfully passed the experimental stage and is considered as an established medical therapy for patients with end- stage organ diseases. It promises to become an essential element of the country's health care system of the future. The number of transplants done every year is very Impressive. In 1992, more than 16,000 transplants were performed. The number of transplant centers has also risen steadily. There are presently 652 centers transplanting kidneys, hearts, livers, pancreases, heart-lungs, and lungs. Some of these centers are very busy. For example, the Medical Center at the University of California in San Francisco recently celebrated its four- thousandth kidney transplant; and the University of Pittsburgh's transplantation program performs, on the average, one transplant every 12 hours (Spotlight, 1992).

Transplantations not only give a new lease on life to thousands of very sick people, but also enhance the quality of that life. The rates of survival of those transplanted with organs are very impressive. Eighty- four percent of cadaveric kidney, 67 percent of heart, 73 percent of livers, 80 percent of pancreas, and 42 percent of heart-lung recipients survive five years after their surgery. The vast majority of those transplanted with organs (80-85% of kidney and heart, 80% of liver, and 85-92% of pancreas recipients) lead physically active lives (Evans, 1991). These achievements of the field of organ transplantation are . . .

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