Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Problem With Our Transplant Allocation System

Medical CaduceusThere is no mystery that many people who are on a transplant do not get the organs list that they need to survive. According to the New York Times, “4,720 people died while waiting for kidney transplants in the United States.” What may come as a surprise is that a great number of kidneys were discarded, some 2,600, without ever being given to a patient that might need the kidney. The reason for this was that many of them were found to not be viable. However, that is not to say that these kidneys could not have been transferred. Many experts believe that there is a better system for matching organs and the people who need them at the right time.

According to the New York Times, “[t]he current process is made inefficient, they say, by an outdated computer matching program, stifling government oversight, the overreliance by doctors on inconclusive tests and even federal laws against age discrimination.” At the moment, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network govern the system, which is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing. In addition, there are medical reasons that a doctor might discard an organ like a kidney. To determine whether a kidney meets the standard for transplants, the doctors biopsy a piece of the organ and run tests to determine whether it is viable. Unfortunately, this process has flaws and doctors discard organs that might be good for transplant. The scrutiny of officials from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network can also affect whether doctors throw away viable organs.

In an effort to increase the amount of people receiving viable organs, the United Network for Organ Sharing has established a committee that has proposes a system that rates the kidneys of donors and gives the best kidneys to those who expect to live the longest. However, the system is facially discriminatory because it discriminates on the basis of age. Under this system, the youngest recipients are more likely to receive organs than their older counterpart.

See Kevin Sack, Transplant Experts Blame Allocation System for Discarding Kidneys, New York Times, Sept. 19, 2012. 


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