DENVER (AP) – A man underwent a kidney transplant Wednesday in what is believed to be the first such operation involving an organ obtained through a for-profit Web site – a transaction that has raised legal and ethical questions.

Hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Lewis said the surgery was going well and the vital signs of both the donor and recipient were good. The operation was scheduled to last about four hours.

Before the operation, Bob Hickey, 58, met with Dr. Igal Kam, the surgeon whose objections initially postponed the transplant. The meeting was described as a time for “healing the scars of the last several days.”

Kam suddenly canceled Monday’s transplant operation after learning that Hickey had met his donor, Robert Smitty, 32, of Chattanooga, Tenn., through a Web site called MatchingDonors.com. Smitty agreed to give Hickey one of his kidneys before the two men met.

MatchingDonors.com, based in Canton, Mass., charges varying fees – sometimes $290 a month – to post profiles of people looking for live organ donors.

Hickey, who has needed a transplant since 1999 because of a kidney disease, was tired of waiting on the national donation list. Within three months of posting his profile on the Web site, he received 500 offers for donations.

The hospital’s Clinical Ethics Committee met on Tuesday to evaluate concerns about the transplant, including whether either Hickey or Smitty stood to profit from the arrangement. The panel later advised the hospital to make a compassionate exception, once both men had signed statements indicating that neither would benefit financially.

“We’re pleased we were able to resolve this quickly with a compassionate exception. But it’s also important to note that organ donations continue to be the topic of a broader national debate and more answers are needed,” Mimi Roberson, chief executive of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, said in a statement.

Roberson insisted, however, that the granting of an exception in this case was not to be construed as an endorsement by the hospital of MatchingDonors.com and said officials would give greater scrutiny to such arrangements in the future.

“They’re allowing me to do something just good for this man,” said Smitty, a part-time photographer and food distributor. “Maybe they went and found out I don’t have a million dollars in the bank somewhere. I feel grateful, privileged to be wearing the shoes I am.”



On the Net:

United Network for Organ Sharing: http://www.unos.org

MatchingDonors: http://www.matchingdonors.com

AP-ES-10-20-04 1735EDT



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