US Organ Transplant System to Get Overhaul

US Organ Transplant System to Get Overhaul

( – Before the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) was established in 1984, there was no system in place to find a match for an available organ that could save someone’s life. Unfortunately, that meant many available organs went to waste. To help combat the problem, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA), which called for the creation of a transplant network in the early ‘80s. By 1984, UNOS — an independent, non-profit organization — was born. The network established systems to collect organs and match them to recipients nationwide.

Over the years, the system hasn’t been as efficient as intended, leading to many deaths and wasted organs, so the Biden Administration recently announced a UNOS overhaul to help resolve the bottlenecks, shorten wait times, and reduce the number of people who die waiting for organs.

The Announcement

On March 22, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced its intention to modernize the transplantation network. The group wants to increase transparency in the transplant system, and this involves creating dashboards detailing retrieval, outcomes, transplants, and organ transplant demographics. It also intends to establish an award system to encourage healthy competition to save more patients. The HRSA called on Congress to make changes to the National Organ Transplant Act by removing Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) appropriation caps and expanding the number of eligible contract organizations to foster competition.

HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said there are people whose very lives depend on an efficient organ transplant system, and they “deserve no less” than a modern and optimized system. The administration plans to increase accountability, transplant equity, and performance to save more lives. The announcement also referenced President Joe Biden’s budget for fiscal year 2024, noting it doubled the HRSA budget in order to make the necessary changes.

Current Statistics

According to HRSA, there are over 100,000 people in the US waiting for replacement organs because there’s a large difference between the supply and the current demand. Sadly, an average of 17 people die each day while they wait, and one person is added to the transplant every 10 minutes. While the administration states over 42,000 transplants happened in 2022, thousands still lost their lives waiting.

Johnson believes separating those who determine organ transplant policies and those who sit on the UNOS board would create a more equitable system. But Dr. Arthur Caplan warns that change can’t come too quickly, as the “transplant system is very delicate.” He fears too much too fast could cause a “halt” in the process.

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