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A New Trend in Organ Donation?

As many as one in four Americans say they would consider donating one of their organs to a total stranger out of the goodness of their heart.

But as these cases become more common, some doctors are asking for a reality check, as Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports on The Early Show.

Reports of organ donations between unrelated people have become more common, Senay says, and those that occur without the donor knowing the recipient are called non-directed donations.

There are some ethical questions to consider, Senay says, and some experts are raising a flag of caution in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the reasons they say caution is necessary is in the practice of using advertisements to attract potential organ donors.

The fear is also, that with the shortage of organs donated from people who have recently died, hospitals will be competing for the few organs there are. "Competition for donors could be fierce, and could lead to the lowering of standards for evaluating those donors," Senay says.

The real reason behind a living person's interest in donating their own organs is important to determine, yet often difficult to do, Senay says. Being psychologically suitable for organ donation is important, and some transplant doctors say that not all candidates fit the bill.

Money isn't usually the motivation for donation, Senay says, and money should only be involved in the organ donation contract if it is a reimbursement of travel or medical costs, or the like. "It's against the law to sell organs in this country," she says.

There is a big difference between this kind of organ donation and signing an organ donation card or notifying family members that in the event of your death, you would like to have your organs donated, Senay points out. One of the reasons for the shortage of available organs, however, is the shortage of people who choose to donate their organs after they die.

"If more people did that, this would be less of an issue," Senay says.

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