Saturday, June 20, 2009

Steve Jobs' transplant highlights organ allocation unfairness

"Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs's decision to travel to Tennessee for a liver highlights the significant disparities in transplant waiting times across the country -- the source of a longstanding controversy over the fairest way to distribute scarce organs," according to a story by Laura Meckler in the Wall Street Journal. The waiting time for a liver transplant in Tennessee is much shorter than it is elsewhere.

Disparities in waiting times are not the only unfair aspect of organ allocation in the United States. Under the rules written by the United Network for Organ Sharing, people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die get treated the same as registered organ donors. It's not fair to give organs to non-donors as long as there are registered organ donors who need them.

If UNOS gave organs first to organ donors it would create an incentive for non-donors to donate. More organ donors means fewer people dying waiting for organ transplants.

In the face of UNOS inaction on this, LifeSharers has created a way for Americans to donate their organs to other organ donors. We use directed donation, which is the process that got Natalie Cole her kidney a few weeks ago. Directed donation is legal under federal law and under the laws of all 50 states.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to other organ donors can join LifeSharers at

And by the way, many people think organs are allocated first to the people who need them most, but that's now how the system works. Instead, geography plays a big role, as Ms. Meckler explains:

The current system relies heavily on illness and geography, with the chances of getting a donated liver much better for those waiting in the same local area as the donor. In many cases, priority is given to those who sign up locally, even if there are sicker patients waiting in the next city or next region.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone criticize LifeSharers because our system doesn't give organs to the people who need them the most.

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