New kidney transplant policy favors younger patients for best organs


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.

What do you think about new kidney transplant policy?

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9 Responses

  1. Zimzi Jones says:

    Here we go again. “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.” I’m sick and tired of the government wanting to micromanage every decision we make as human beings. I don’t cuss online, but it makes me angry enough to want to.

  2. Phil says:

    Blatant Age Discrimination and illegal under US law prohibiting Discrimination

  3. David J Undis says:

    Your story about the New Kidney Transplant Policy and Organ Donation Priority highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

    There are now over 110,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting List, with over 50% of these people dying before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Everyone who is willing to receive should be willing to give.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling
    1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 14,400 members as of this writing.

    Please contact me – Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers – if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you’re interested. My email address is My phone number is 615-351-8622.

  4. Mary says:

    I am young and I deserve a kidney more than you old geezers. Maybe if I were older I would think differently, but right now I believe that if you are past your median life expectancy you shouldn’t be offered an organ transplant at all. Sorry those are my thoughts.

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