If the new changes pass to the transplant recipient list priorities, organs will be allocated to those who are expected to live longest and to individuals who are within 15 years of the age of the donor. Only around 17,000 Americans actually receive the required transplant they need each year, and nearly 5,000 people die waiting for their transplant.

The current established policy disregards age and health status, and only accounts for where the patient is in line, which right now is approximately a 70,000 name list, with over 110,000 on the waiting list.

The nation’s organ transplant network is proposing that patients and transplant kidneys be graded and separated into groups. The healthiest and youngest 20% of patients and kidneys would be segregated into a separate pool so that the best kidneys would be given to patients with the longest life expectancies. However, the remaining 80% of patients would be separated into groups that would limit the age difference between the patient and the organ to 15 years or under. For example, someone who is 60 could only get a donor kidney from someone age 45 to 75.

The principle is used during extreme danger would now apply, meaning resources are allocated to those who are most likely to survive. These new proposed changes are believed to be an improvement, as someone expecting to live just 10 more years, does not need an organ that can adequately function for 40 years or more.

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is charged with the difficult task of organ transplant management. When organs are donated, a complex process begins. UNOS maintains a centralized computer network which links all organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and transplant centers. Transplant professionals can access this computer network 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Every day, the Organ Center handles at least 350 requests from transplant organizations for organ placement assistance, waiting list modifications, policy information and organ transportation assistance.

In the United States, nearly 90,000 men, women and children are waiting for kidney transplants for example. Potential recepient’s struggle to live depends on a complex and technologically advanced organ allocation system that links patients with organs donated by strangers. The nation’s organ-transplant network is considering a change in their Kidney Transplant Policy that will give priority to younger, healthier people over older, sicker patients for the best kidneys.

The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984 called for an Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to be created and run by a private, non-profit organization under federal contract. UNOS was first awarded the national OPTN contract in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. UNOS continues as the only organization ever to operate the OPTN.

Did you know that the length of time donated organs and tissues can be kept outside the body vary? Here are the facts by organ:

  • Heart: 4-6 hours
  • Liver: 12-24 hours
  • Kidney: 48-72 hours
  • Heart-Lung: 4-6 hours
  • Lung: 4-6 hours

In response to the shortage of organs for transplantation, relatives, loved ones, friends and even individuals with no prior relationship are serving as living donors for the growing number of people on the national organ transplant waiting list.

A living donor can save and/or greatly improve the quality of life of a transplant candidate. However, one should only make a decision about donating an organ after being fully informed of the possible risks and benefits.

Source: The United Network for Organ Sharing

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.