Convict wants to sacrifice his only kidney to save his dying daughter

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The Independent Online
A TEENAGE girl lies in hospital in San Francisco, her life threatened by kidney failure. But rescue is at hand, thanks to a devoted father who is willing to become a donor and offer his daughter a fresh chance of health. Except there is a problem - he has done this for her once already.

If David Patterson, 38, is allowed by doctors to give his second kidney to his daughter, 16-year-old Renada Daniel Patterson, as he is proposing, he will be left with no kidney. He gave her his first in 1996.

The consequences of his offer are not hard to divine. Mr Patterson would be destined to spend the rest of life receiving painful treatment and purifying his blood through dialysis. He would be opening himself up to ill health and possible premature death.

And there is something else. Mr Patterson is serving a 13-year prison sentence in a state prison in Sacramento, California, for robbery and drugs convictions.

This means that the cost of dialysis - roughly $40,000 a year - would have to be picked up by the government and, by extension, the taxpayer.

The dilemma is an acute one that has been referred to a bio-ethics panel at the University of California in San Francisco.

It would be the doctors at the University Hospital, where Renada is receiving dialysis three times a week, who would be expected to conduct the transplant operation.

The question is this - by removing Mr Patterson's remaining kidney, would the surgeons be violating their professional vows never to do harm to a patient?

Renada received her first transplanted kidney 11 years ago. It was quickly rejected, however, and for seven years she led a restricted life of regular dialysis, unable to attend school or enjoy anything close to the life of a normal child.

Renada's luck changed, however, when, out of the blue, her father telephoned from prison. Even though he had abandoned Renada and her mother, Vickie Daniels, when she was a baby, he offered her one of his healthy kidneys for a transplant. The operation was successfully completed in March 1996.

Renada was checked back into the hospital a week ago, however. Unbeknown to her mother, she had stopped taking the drugs that guard against the rejection by the body of donated organs.

It was clear that another transplant would be necessary.

Ms Daniels is angry that there should be any debate about taking Mr Patterson's second kidney to save her daughter.

"They told us this would be unethical," Ms Daniels said. "We believe it's not about ethics. These are family members making decisions about the future of their child."

At the prison, officials are uncertain of their position. "I am told that this is something he wants to try to do," commented Lieutenant Bill Mayfield, a spokesman for the prison.

"But it's a dire question at this point. Quite frankly, I am not sure I have a good answer. I can see a good argument on both sides."