Driving is down – so are organ transplants. Hmm?

Deaths from motor vehicle crashes and fatal injuries are the biggest source of organs for transplant, accounting for 33% of donations, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the nation’s organ transplant system…

From March 8 to April 11, the number of organ donors who died in traffic collisions was down 23% nationwide compared with the same period last year, while donors who died in all other types of accidents were down 21%, according to data from UNOS.

Awkward, eh?

Millions of Reichsmarks found in time capsule hidden in organ

More than half a billion German Reichsmarks were discovered in a time capsule from 1930 hidden inside an organ in Norway.

According to a note found in the time capsule, it was placed in the organ by August Sieber, an organ builder from Bavaria, on January 8, 1930, The Local.no reported Friday.

It was then recently found in the organ at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, while the organ was being restored.

“The letter and the money weren’t even discovered in 1962, when people from Steinmeyer were in Trondheim to move the organ from the north transept to the west transept, Per Fridtjov Bonsaksen, who is overseeing the restoration, told Adressavisen.

Twelve banknotes were included in the capsule, including one for five hundred million Reichsmarks.

The note was “a bitter and emotional greeting,” Bonsaksen said, warning future generations of hyperinflation.

The report did not say what the money would be worth today.

Nice illustration of the differing cultural/historic reasons for diametrically opposed approaches to working a nation out of the bowels of recession. After World War 1 the Weimar Republic in Germany experienced inflation so severe it wasn’t uncommon for someone to need a wheelbarrow to carry sufficient money to go grocery shopping.

Now, the factors are sufficiently different from anything experienced then, context as well as causes, to give many of us in the New World pause and consider Angela Markel and her peers a little nutso. Still, this find certainly shows what her grandparents, perhaps her parents went through. And never forgot.

Should people be allowed to sell their organs?

How much would it take for you to consider selling your bone marrow? A U.S. appeals court puts the price at about $3,000 in a ruling that now makes it legal to pay donors for their bone-marrow tissue.

The court’s decision may well help thousands of sick patients who need bone-marrow transplants to survive, but it also begs the question, What other body parts might next be up for sale..?

While the decision applies only to the nine states covered by the Ninth Circuit court, and only to bone marrow obtained through apheresis, it does raise bigger questions about how we will look at organ donation in the future. With about 114,000 people waiting for organs in the U.S. alone on any given day, and only 3,300 donors, the urgent medical need runs up against moral standards of the value of human life. Once we start paying for the parts we need, though, how far do we go..?

Of course, certain body parts are already up for sale. Aside from sperm and plasma, donors can also be paid for their eggs and hair. But by expanding that list, the court’s ruling reopens the long-standing ethical debate over the commercialization of human tissues. For now, legally “sellable” human body parts aren’t ones that could be used to cure fatal diseases, which prevents a market frenzy.

But if the bone-marrow case starts changing that — and experts say it could — it might jump-start a dangerous trend in which lower-income groups were disproportionately targeted or incentivized to give up their marrow and people with rarer blood types demanded more money for their valuable cells.

Nevertheless, selling tissues or organs may not be the logical first step in addressing the disconnect between supply and demand. Klitzman notes that there are other changes we can make to U.S. organ-donation policy that might improve giving rates. In Spain, for example, all citizens are organ donors by default; those who don’t wish to participate must opt out. In the U.S., in contrast, people must voluntarily opt in to give, which could be a deterrent.

Since I sometimes accept the definition of Libertarian Leftie – especially in discussion of my right to exercise choice over how and when I die – it’s no stretch to include selling body parts. Though I’d like to think I’ll always be in sound enough economic circumstances to make a decision to donate, I can envision compensation being useful. As a cranky old geek this is mostly a theoretical discussion, anyway. I’m more likely to be in need of the donation rather than vice-versa. 🙂

Still, I feel it’s a reasonable decision for me to make on my own. The only proviso I’d throw into the mix is the responsibility to maintain myself through any problems that arise. Public healthcare shouldn’t pick up that responsibility. If we had real public healthcare that is.

Limoges feeds French nostalgia with a feast of organ meat

While the French may be renowned for their refined culinary tastes, they have another side. It was on full display this month in this city in central France known for its expensive porcelain but with another side of its own.

Limoges is also a city of butchers, and their annual festival, La Frairie des Petits Ventres, or The Brotherhood of Small Bellies, is a celebration of what Christine Travers delicately terms “products that we could never find in supermarkets.”

The festival was created with the idea of building interest in the meat products consumed by peasants in much older days. One local favorite is the Amourettes — literally, “the fling” — a dish of sheep testicles cooked in garlic, parsley and port.

Mrs. Travers had just finished a blood sausage sandwich and a piece of chestnut pie, and after washing it down with some cider, confided a closely held secret: it is the sheep testicles that draw her most of all.

“It melts in your mouth, and tastes like lamb sweetbread,” she said, as she made her way though a crowd of ecstatic seekers after delicacies prepared from tripe, lamb testicles, and the organs of lamb, veal and pigs.

The one-day festival starts in the morning with an open-air market, and closes in the evening with a religious procession. It is the excellence of the tripe that attracts hundreds of food lovers to the narrow Rue de la Boucherie, or butcher’s street, a picturesque medieval lane lined with half-timbered houses…

The Frairie des Petits Ventres was created in 1973 by Renaissance du Vieux Limoges, an association of preservationists and butchers who came together successfully to fight plans to demolish the old city center.

The butchers showed their commitment, they said, by putting up stalls outside their shops to sell cooked innards and local specialties. The Frairie des Petits Ventres quickly became a local institution.

Eating everything but the breath expelled at slaughter is a tradition born of economics. Only societies with abundance – or rather ruled by those with access to abundance – begin to forget utilization of every bit of consumables.

And though I have noted in other posts my dislike for blood sausage, I enjoy a few family recipes for heart, tongue and, of course, haggis.

Transplant breakthrough using patient’s own stem cells

Doctors have successfully carried out the world’s first airway transplant on a young woman using an organ partly grown from her own stem cells in a groundbreaking operation which scientists believe will transform the future of surgery.

Surgeons replaced a section of Claudia Castillo’s windpipe, that had been irreparably damaged by tuberculosis, with a donated organ that was stripped of its cells and used as a scaffold for her stem cells.

Because Castillo’s body recognises her own cells in the replacement organ she does not need to take powerful drugs to suppress her immune system, unlike all other transplant patients. The technique raises the prospect of transplants for patients whose organs are damaged by cancer, who then cannot take the drugs as they increase the risk of cancer returning.

Professor Martin Birchall, from Bristol University, which carried out the stem cell engineering, said it would soon be possible to create a range of organs for transplants which patients’ bodies will not reject. “In 20 years, this will be the most common form of surgery,” he said.

Read the article, folks. It holds out great hope for that enormous part of the world’s population younger than an old crank like me.

The sort of breakthrough in medicine not at all surprising to anyone who has spent significant time reading science, appreciating the growing capability of modern medicine to replicate and recreate used-up and damaged portions of this meat machine we walk around in.