KU Hospital presses to keep Midwestern livers


Kevin Roberts, a two-time liver transplant recipient, opposes the plan to change the way livers are allocated.

Local liver recipients join KU Hospital in a battle to keep donated Midwestern livers from going to the east and west coasts.

Two transplant patients support the current system that distributes livers within 11 regional districts.

KU Hospital is among more than 40 transplant programs that oppose a change to distribute the livers nationally.

They are to speak against the change next week in a Chicago hearing before the United Network for Organ Sharing.

The local Midwest region 8 has the highest donor rate in the nation at 82 percent. Cities on the east and west coasts have much lower rates, with the lowest being 55 percent in the New York region.

In one KU Hospital press release, patient Dan Lowe says he received his first liver transplant in a big coastal city with an organ that was transported from too far away.

“The liver failed because it became infected while being transported,” he said. He later got another liver at KU Hospital.

“He believes flying organs across the country won’t save more lives and only changes where people are dying,” the release states.

Lowe said big coastal cities need to do education campaigns to increase their local donation rates.

The other patient, Kevin Roberts, is a two-time liver transplant patient who suffers from a chronic  disease that leads to liver failure.

See a video of Kevin Roberts

He released a copy of a July 26 letter he wrote to politicians in both parties:

 “Hello, my name is Kevin … And I am a liver transplant recipient.  I have been fortunate to live in the Midwest where people have been very charitable in agreeing to be organ donors.  Unfortunately individuals on the east and west coast have not been so generous.

The debate has now begun among the hospitals on both coasts that Midwest organs should be more available and shared for transplants in their regions.  They argue the only effect on the Midwest would be longer waiting times for Midwest recipients.  I need to make it abundantly clear that longer waits mean more people will die in Midwest hospitals as organs are being sent to both coasts.  At some point, those waiting will be taken off the list because they will become too sick to survive the transplant process. In my particular case, if this policy were in place, I would have died before I was able to receive my liver.

I am not opposed to sharing organs in a fair and equitable way but first and foremost coastal states must increase organ donor rates. Our people are generous but sending organs outside of our region violates a sense of giving to the people in the areas we live.  I personally hate this debate….if we could get everyone to sign up for organ donation, no one would be denied the gift of life.

Unfortunately, we are not there.  Don’t be misled however.  With its bigger population, large hospitals and major monetary contributors, the east and west coasts will get their demands met with little discussion or debate.  Again, simply increasing wait times is a simple phrase but it means “more  people will die that are forced to wait.”

We are contacting Representatives and Senators in the Midwest requesting help in making this topic known and debated in an open way.  This is a Midwest bipartisan concern.  The Kansas City Star has an article today discussing this topic.  Thanks for your time and any help you may be able give to this important issue.


Kevin Roberts


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