THE EDITOR RESPONDS: That is an excellent question, Julie. (People can read “Precious Gifts” on our website at http://bit.ly/V5G5Pu.) Studies have shown that transplanting an organ from a cancer patient can lead to that same cancer in the recipient. This is true for nearly any type of cancer, including head and neck cancer, thus the reluctance to use organs from cancer patients. However, it depends on the stage of cancer, how long ago the cancer occurred, and how much risk the recipient is willing to accept. Each of these is a case-by-case decision by the physician and recipient based on balancing the risk of disease transmission from the donor versus the risk of dying before another organ offer occurs.
After reading your editorial on organ giving, I asked my neurologist if at my age (88), any of my organs could still be used. He said yes, so I contacted an agency here in Florida and enrolled immediately. I shared this with my family and, after their initial shock, they realized how happy it made me feel to think that part(s) of me would live on to make someone's life a bit better. What a beautiful legacy to leave this world. I don't have a million dollars to leave, but my organs will feel like a million-dollar bequest to the recipients. Thank you for encouraging me to do something so worthwhile!
Delray Beach, FL