UPDATE: ABC's Coverage of Pay it Forward Organ Donation Program Saves Lives

A unique program centered purely on the generosity of the human spirit and the kindness of strangers received another boost from ABC News.  The October 20 broadcast of World News revisited a story they featured in July of 2007 about a kidney donation program started by a Michigan man who hoped his concept of “paying it forward” would ignite a movement and change lives.

Anchor Charles Gibson and reporter Barbara Pinto gladly reported it had.

CMI wrote about this story when ABC first covered it and noted that the story stood out from gloomy news coverage of “stock market losses,”  “home foreclosures on the increase” and “political posturing.”  It is surreal to see those same themes still being pounded by the media fifteen months later and once again to note that a story about profound generosity is a welcome relief.

World News updated the story of “paired donations” with Pinto reporting from the site of a reunion where the people impacted by the original act of Matt Jones' donating his kidney to Barb Bunnell were gathered.  Jones, the father of five, made his kidney donation to Bunnell with the understanding that someone in her family would “pay it forward” and likewise donate a kidney to a stranger.

PINTO: Matt gave his kidney to Barb Bunnell, whose husband Ron was not a good match for her. In turn, Ron gave his kidney to Angie, whose mother Laurie was not a suitable donor. Laurie gave her kidney to Cecelia, and the lifesaving chain took off. Dr. Michael Rees has arranged for 16 such transplants so far.

DR. REES: My hope is we will get 3,000 kidney transplants a year some day.

PINTO: A year ago, no one here could have predicted that the number of people associated with this chain of kidney transplants would fill a hotel ballroom. But they did, to celebrate incredible generosity, and life.

At the close of the story Pinto introduced “another link” in the chain by noting that Carey Barrett would be donating a kidney to a woman named Brenda Chapa.  Barrett credited his decision to donate a kidney to seeing last summer's story about Matt Jones.

Gibson noted that ABC News continues to actively support the “paired donation” movement and provides a link to the Alliance for Paired Donation on its Web site. Paired donation uses computers to match those in need of kidneys with those willing to donate to a stranger.

According to information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of people requiring life-saving transplants continues to rise faster than the number of donors available.  The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reports that 300 new transplant candidates are added to the nationwide list every month.

For more information on organ donation, click here for an HRSA FAQ sheet.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.