Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Kidney Transplantation Committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing is considering changing the way kidneys from deceased donors are distributed:

The committee discussed three concepts that could be used in a new system to determine who gets kidneys:

— A formula that determines how long a patient can expect to live after receiving a new kidney.

— The amount of time a patient has been receiving dialysis treatments.

— A measure of the quality of the donated organ in relation to the candidate's age and health.

This is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. None of these changes will do anything to increase the supply of kidneys.

UNOS continues to treat organ allocation as a zero-sum game. It doesn't have to be that way. UNOS can increase the supply of organs by allocating donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

If UNOS did this, just about everyone would sign up to be an organ donor. It would also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the transplant waiting list.

America doesn't have an organ shortage. We have an organ donor shortage. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year. About 8,000 Americans die every year waiting for organ transplants. UNOS should do the math.

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