Online Program

Perfect Strangers, a video documentary about living organ donation, dialysis, and chronic disease

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 1:10 p.m. - 1:20 p.m.

Jan Krawitz, Professor / Filmmaker, Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
This documentary film provides an intimate portrayal of the impact of chronic kidney disease on one patient and her family. It also explores living organ donation and questions what motivates an individual towards an extreme act of compassion. The film tells the story of two unique and engaging characters. One is Eldonna, who, at the age of 49, embarks on an unpredictable journey of twists and turns, determined to give away one of her kidneys. Five hundred miles away, Kathy endures nightly dialysis at home and loses hope of receiving a transplant until “Ellie” reads her profile on an online website and decides to contact her. Both women face unexpected challenges as their parallel stories unfold over the course of four years. Revealing scenes with Ellie, Kathy, and their families underscore the complicated physical and emotional terrain of organ donation. Why are we unnerved by the idea of such an extreme gift? 

According to the UNOS website, there are more than 101,000 people on the waitlist for a deceased donor kidney and 350,000 on dialysis. Almost 4500 of those on the waitlist die annually before receiving a kidney. As the population ages, the need for organs inexorably rises as does time spent on the waitlist. Altruistic organ donation from a living donor is the new frontier that could significantly increase the supply of organs yet it is not actively promoted as a viable alternative to dialysis or a 5 to 7 year wait on the UNOS list. Many people feel discomfited by the idea of non-directed, altruistic donation where the donor has no relationship to or knowledge of the recipient so hospital transplant centers have been slow to embrace the idea and policymakers have been equally wary. Through the prism of one kidney’s journey, Perfect Strangers confronts thorny philosophical questions about acts of compassion, altruism, and ultimately, who deserves a second chance at life and at what cost.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Other professions or practice related to public health
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the challenges faced by patients with chronic kidney disease who can spend years on a waitlist for a deceased donor organ while enduring daily dialysis. Demonstrate the value of living organ donation for both donor and recipient and how awareness of living organ donation can have an ancillary and positive impact on deceased organ donation.

Keyword(s): Chronic disease management and prevention, Public health or related public policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the producer, director, and editor of Perfect Strangers. I have been making documentary films for thirty years and had complete editorial control over the content. I did significant research and pre-production on the topic of kidney disease and organ donation before beginning the film.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.