Liver politics: forces align on donor changes

liver-transplantLawmakers from Missouri, Kansas and nine other states joined in opposing an effort to send donor livers from the Midwest and south to the east and west coasts.

Forty lawmakers signed a letter dated Friday that stakes out their position for a Tuesday hearing on the matter in Chicago.

KU Hospital, which put out a news release on it, is also among more than 40 transplant providers who oppose the change.

see a KU hospital video with transplant recipient

Livers currently go to the sickest patients within 11 regions, and Midwest and southern regions have higher donor rates than the east and west coasts.

The local Midwest Region 8 has the highest donor rate in the nation at 82 percent. The New York state region has the lowest rate at 55 percent.

A United Network for Organ Sharing concept paper proposes allocating the livers on a national basis instead of regional one, saying that would save more lives.

Opponents dispute that and say the change would risk more lives in regions that have worked to get high donor rates.

The Friday letter states: “If implemented, the proposal would result in dramatic adverse impacts for individuals with liver disease throughout the United States.”

More organs would have to travel longer distances, it states, “areas with high organ donation rates would be disproportionately affected, … “and the proposal may not have the desired effect of lowering overall wait list mortality.”

It also says the high administrative costs and burdens “could inadvertently reduce the number of livers available for transplant nationally.”

The letter is to the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees UNOS, the group proposing the change.

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