Networking for organ donation

Here is a different approach to donating organs: Band together and give to one another.

Dave Undis, executive director of LifeSharers, said the group offers members a way to donate their organs when they die.

“People can donate their organs to others who will return the favor,” Undis said. “They increase their own chances of getting a transplant should they ever need one. They create an incentive for others to become registered organ donors. They make the organ allocation system fairer.”

All is accomplished by giving organs first to registered organ donors.

It sounds selfish to me, like it’s my ball and you can’t play, but LifeSharers backs up its mission with almost 9,000 like-minded members across 50 states. Members are eligible for preferred access to organs, such as kidneys and livers, 180 days after joining the organization.

It’s free to join.

Paul Richards of Lynnwood is a LifeSharers member. He disagrees with my opinion.

“It’s not selfish,” Richards said. “There’s no harm in it.”

Members get preferred access to organs of other members, Undis said.

“LifeSharers retain the right to donate their organs to family members,” Undis said, “whether or not those family members are LifeSharers.”

Giving organs first to registered organ donors will save thousands of lives every year, Undis said. Too many organs are unfairly given to people who won’t donate their own organs.

If you’ve already agreed on your driver’s license to donate your organs, Undis said, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by joining LifeSharers.

He started the organization because he was appalled at the terrible waste of transplantable organs, he said.

“Every year Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs, and every year 8,000 Americans die because there aren’t enough organs for transplant operations,” Undis said. “I saw an opportunity to save thousands of lives every year by creating an incentive for people to register as organ donors.”

The group has members in Bothell, Everett, Lake Stevens, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mukilteo, Snohomish and Sultan.

Hoping to spread the word about the need for organs, Richards, 25, a Redmond firefighter, said it seemed sensible to join. There are no sad stories in his family about folks needing organs, he added.

He grew up in Snohomish and attended the University of Washington, where he walked on the basketball team. He was heading for a career in engineering or computers, but didn’t want a desk job.

If he ever needs an organ, he would contact LifeSharers, Richards said. To join, he filled out a online form at

He agreed to talk up organ donating, and said he is doing just that.

There are almost 100,000 patients on a national waiting list for donors, Undis said.

“Relying on altruism has left us with an organ shortage that keeps getting larger,” Undis said. “Isn’t it time to try something different?”

Bottom line, the 53-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., wants more folks to donate part of their bodies. About 10 percent of LifeSharers members are minor children enrolled by their parents.

The LifeSharers concept is the diametric opposite of “selfish,” said Steve Calandrillo, professor of Law and Washington Law School Foundation Scholar at the University of Washington School of Law.

“It rewards people for choosing to save other people’s lives,” Calandrillo said. “Approximately 50 percent of organs transplanted in America are transplanted into patients who themselves are not signed up as organ donors. It is a fundamental issue of fairness that people who agree to donate organs should receive priority if they ever need one.”

Undis buried my opinion of the service being selfish.

“It seems selfish to be willing to receive a transplant without being willing to donate your own organs,” Undis said. “Besides, everyone is welcome to join us and there’s no cost.”

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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