In the United States, nearly 90,000 men, women and children are waiting for kidney transplants. Only about 17,000 Americans get kidneys each year, and more than 4,600 die because they did not get one in time. Their 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.
Currently patients were prioritized on first-come-first-served basis for their kidney replacements. But this new rules would match recipients and organs to a greater extent based on factors such as age and health to try to maximize the number of years provided by each kidney.
“Right now, if you’re 77 years old and you’re offered an 18-year-old’s kidney, you get it,” said Dr. Richard N. Formica, a transplant physician at Yale University and a member of the panel that wrote the proposed policy. “The problem is that you’ll die with that kidney still functioning, while a 30-year-old could have gotten that kidney and lived with it to see his kids graduate from college.”
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 instance, someone who is 60 could only get a donor kidney from someone age 45 to 75.
The new policy has gained support among transplant surgeons and medical ethicists, but it faces an uncertain reception by kidney transplant patients and legislators.
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a Richmond-based private nonprofit group contracted by the federal government to coordinate organ allocation said the plan has not been presented to the UNOS board as a policy proposal and the kidney committee has until April 1 to get public comments.
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