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Frequently Asked Questions About Organ Redistricting

Q: What is redistricting?

Imagine that everyone who needs a liver transplant in the U.S. is on the Titanic and that donor livers are the life boats. Redistricting is simply changing who gets in the life boats. 

Currently, there are 11 donor regions (or districts) in the United States governed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Within each district are organizations (hospitals, OPOs, transplant programs, community educators) that are responsible for educating the public or identifying people who die and may be donors then make donation happen. 

These organizations are effectively the builders of life boats. Region 8 – which represents Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri – is the best boat builder with the highest donor conversion rate and highest donation per million population in the country. So when we say ‘redistricting,’ we are talking about redrawing the borders of the current regions to make fewer regions. This will help regions where donation rates are not as high. Unfortunately, this does not change the number of life boats and sadly everyone on the waiting list needs a life boat.

Q: How do we share organs now?

Right now organs are mostly shared within regions. So for Kansans, that means we share primarily with fellow Kansans as well as people from Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri.

Q: Who wants to change organ sharing and why?

UNOS is made up of many people, some representing transplant centers, some representing Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), and other representing patients or the public. Those who want to change the way organs are shared are generally those in areas needing more organs. For example, the east and west coasts tend to have lower donation rates and thus a higher need for donated organs.

Q: How would redistricting impact donors and patients locally? What about nationally?

If organs were shared across a larger geographic area – either in larger regions or across the entire nation – donors in high-donation areas like Kansas would see their organs travel farther more often. Interestingly, high-donation areas also tend to be rural areas, so it could be said that rural residents will end up subsidizing more urban residents on the densely-populated coasts.

Q: If not broader sharing, then what?

Donor awareness and education of the public is the most effective way to save lives and perform more transplants. It’s also important to know we already share organs. Many organs do travel when it’s the right match and the logistics make sense. The key is increasing donor organs.

Q: What can I do to help keep donor livers here, closer to home?

Let your voice be heard during the public comment period on the Redesigning Liver Distribution proposal which is open now through October 15, 2016. Click here to visit the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network site. Scroll down the page to the feedback section to leave your input. You can make a difference.

Help re-focus this effort on increasing organ donation in the U.S.