(NewsReady.com) – There are more than 17,000 people in the US waiting for a liver transplant. Unfortunately, there are only about 5,000 procedures performed every year, according to the University of California San Francisco. A new report alleges changes to the system have led to higher death rates in some states.
The Markup and The Washington Post analyzed data related to liver transplants across the country. In 2020, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) announced the implementation of the acuity circle (AC) policy. The change prioritized the sickest people on waitlists without regard to where they live. Meaning, instead of organs going to the sickest person in a particular area, those boundaries were eliminated, and the organs would travel greater distances.
The report by the WaPo found the shift has succeeded in getting organs to people with the greatest need. It has also benefited patients in states like California and New York, while the number of lifesaving procedures declined in nearly all of the South and Midwest.
While the people in those states suffer, they reportedly donate at a higher rate. For instance, in Louisiana, there are double the donations, but the state has seen a 27% drop in transplants. The change also coincided with a sharp increase in wasted livers. One in 10 livers donated to the program has gone to waste.
Requiring livers be offered for transplant miles away benefited patients in New York, California, many other states at expense of patients in poorer states with higher liver disease deaths, data analysis by The Washington Post and the Markup has found.https://t.co/iQ8fzSXaSy
— Leon Dash (@DashDeCosta) March 21, 2023
UNOS issued a statement acknowledging organs were being transported twice as far now but claimed the system is much better at helping the sickest people. Interim CEO Maureen McBride told the newspaper that she is “proud” of the policy and believes it has “increase[d] efficiency, accuracy and transparency across the system.”
Not everyone agrees with McBride’s assessment. Seth Karp, Nashville’s Vanderbilt Transplant Center director, said the new system appears to reward “wealthy areas and wealthy states by providing resources from poor” states. He called it “really troubling” and said authorities completely missed the actual problem, which is too few organ donations.
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