Organ transplant program under review
WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The network that oversees organ transplant policy is considering a proposal that would give priority to younger, healthier kidney patients.
Currently patients who have been on a waiting list the longest and who are the sickest often get the best kidneys in a system that was last overhauled in 1986, The Washington Post reported.
"We're trying to best utilize the gift of the donated organ," said Kenneth Andreoni, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University and chairman of the committee reviewing the transplant system for the United Network for Organ Sharing.
UNOS is a private non-profit group contracted by the federal government to coordinate organ allocation.
Some 87,000 Americans are awaiting kidneys. The Post said 4,000 die each year awaiting kidney transplants while 17,000 operations are performed annually.
"It's an effort to get the most out of a scarce resource," Andreoni said.
Critics said the changes could result in age discrimination.
"The best kidneys are from young adults under age 35 years. Nobody over the age of 50 will ever see one of those," said Lainie Friedman Ross, a University of Chicago bioethicist and physician. "We're making it harder for them to get a kidney ... it's age discrimination."
The proposed change, which would put kidney allocation closer to the system used for livers, hearts and lungs, could have implications for how other medical resources are allocated.
"It's a big shift," said Arthur C. Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist.
The public has until April 1 to comment.
Copyright 2011 by United Press International