Organs are being wasted and patients are being denied access to life-saving surgery, according to a prominent scientific advisory panel, which has set a five-year deadline to fix the problem.
Last year, the United States performed more than 41,000 kidney, liver, and other organ transplants, breaking previous records. The vast majority of these transplants were made possible by deceased donor organs. Friday’s esteemed report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine shines a light on the issues that prevent more lives from being saved.
More than 106,000 people in the United States are waiting for a deceased donor transplant, and at least 17 people die every day while they wait. According to the study, many more people, particularly those of color, who are eligible for organ transplants are never even placed on a waiting list.
Geopolitical factors influence not only the length of time that patients must wait for a matching donation but also the likelihood of surviving donors’ possibly useable organs being found after their deaths.
And too often, organs that aren’t perfect end up being wasted.
Transplantation “does a lot of positive things and saves a lot of lives,” Dr. Kenneth Kizer, a well-known specialist in health care quality who chaired the group, told the AP. “However, it is clearly inequitable and does not work for enough individuals.” It is possible to improve the system so that it serves a greater number of users.
There were a number of key findings:
There should be a national performance objective defined by the Health and Human Services Department that includes achieving 50,000 transplants each year by 2026. Increasing the number of transplants has been a slow but steady process for the past several years.
Transplant recipients deserve to be informed about the possibility of receiving a less-than-ideal organ donation. Almost a quarter of donated kidneys went unused in the past year, according to Kizer, and that percentage is expected to go as low as five percent by 2026, according to the panel. Study results have shown that French surgeons are more likely than their American counterparts to use lower-quality kidneys from older donors with the same level of success.
However, not all hospitals agree to utilize such organs, and Kizer added that too often patients are never informed if their doctor declined a chance. To him, it’s too simple for transplant clinics to turn down usable organs.
It’s time for Congress to hold HHS accountable for eliminating inequities by the same time frame. Black Americans are three times as likely to suffer from kidney failure than white persons, but they are much less likely to be referred for transplantation examination. For a deceased donor, they have to wait longer than for a living donor.
When patients are diagnosed with organ failure, the federal government should begin regulatory oversight rather than waiting until they reach the transplant waiting list, according to a panel’s recommendations.
While the commission was tasked by Congress with conducting an investigation into the transplant system, its report is devoid of conclusions and instead focuses on making recommendations.
the federal contract for the transplant system to be renegotiated, the Biden administration announced on Friday that it would take these suggestions into account.
To ensure accountability and oversight, “HHS intends to utilize the instruments at our disposal,” a spokesperson for HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration stated in a statement.
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A few of the adjustments had already taken place. The United Network for Organ Sharing, which currently runs the transplant system, has been modifying procedures to alleviate discrepancies, including adjusting how organs are allocated so that a patient’s ZIP code matters less – reforms that have at times been halted by lawsuits from rival transplant centers.
Medicare also set new guidelines under the Trump administration to enhance the uneven performance of groups across the country that are in charge of collecting organs from deceased donors and delivering them to the correct transplant institution.
Science education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute benefits the Associated Press’ Health and Science Division. Responsibility for all AP content rests exclusively with the AP.
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