The Great Organ Transplant Debate

More liver donations, not transportation, is answer to shortage

In 2015, The University of Kansas Hospital launched a nationwide media campaign – backed by dozens of other hospitals – aimed at delaying a proposed change in the way donated livers are allocated for transplantation.

In the proposal, more livers would be shipped out of regions with higher rates of organ donation, such as the Midwest and Southeast, to the East and West Coasts, where supply is lower and wait times are longer.

The Redesigning Liver Distribution proposal is now open for public comment.
Please make your opinion known. Click here to go to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation web page and scroll down to the feedback section to leave your comments.

liver allocationAmong the concerns:

  • Livers transported longer distances are less healthy.
  • The change could lead to longer wait times in the Midwest, placing those patients at greater risk.
  • The increased transportation would add an estimated $30 million to transplantation costs.

A better solution, says physicians and others at the hospital, is to increase the number of organ donors on the East and West Coasts, which sharply lag Midwest and Southeast donation rates.

"The only way to save more lives is to increase organ donation in other regions," said Timothy Schmitt, MD, The University of Kansas Hospital's director of transplantation. "Flying high donation regions to lower donation regions removes any incentives for those programs to get better."

Patients here are also involved. "I am not opposed to sharing organs in a fair and equitable way," Kevin Roberts, a two-time liver transplant recipient, wrote in a letter to lawmakers. "Our people are generous, but sending organs outside of our region violates a sense of giving to the people in the areas where we live."