Plan for allocating livers for transplants creates concern in our region

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Human organs donated for transplants are precious gifts that are in short supply. Some regions of the country have fewer liver donors for the population than the Midwest Transplant Network's region has. Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital, which performs liver transplants, are concerned about a plan before the United Network for Organ Sharing or UNOS. The plan could result in more livers donated here being moved to other places for transplantation.

Gary Welty lies in an intensive care unit bed at K.U. Hospital seven weeks after receiving a new liver. Welty waited four years for the transplant, and says his declining health during that time has made it harder to recover.

"My survival rate is going down and down and down whereas if you do it early, it gives people more of a chance to survive and recover in a shorter period of time," said Welty.

Dr. Richard Gilroy worries he'll have more patients who wait longer for transplants and have poorer outcomes. That's if proposed redistricting of liver allocation takes place. More livers from the Midwest Transplant Network Region could go to places like Houston.

"Allocation should remain closer to home because I think that you get optimal outcome for the resource and get optimal outcome for the patient," said Dr. Gilroy.

Doctors on the coasts argue their patients should have as great a chance at livers as those inland where there are higher donation rates.

"Our wait time is already long and last year, 34 people died waiting," said the doctor at K.U. Hospital.

Dr. Gilroy says the region already ships out about a third of all donated livers, and the solution isn't to send more out. He says it's boosting the number of donors in all parts of the country. There are 6,000 livers available for transplant in the U.S. each year.

"There are 12,000 people in the water. We've got 6,000 life rafts. That's what happens every year. Get more life rafts in the water. That is, get more donors," said Dr. Gilroy.

Welty doesn't want others to have the wait he had, and to struggle as he is now.

"You got a problem, let's fix it. It's like a car. You don't find out you got bad brakes and fix it three years later," he said.

A UNOS committee is expected to make a recommendation in mid-September. K.U. Hospital and the Midwest Transplant Network are among those asking a federal agency to delay the decision until many questions are answered.

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2 comments

  • WhySoSerious

    Midwestern people are known for there kindness, it does not surprise me that we donate more livers, what also doesn’t surprise me is that the greedy takers from the east and west coast those livers! The old you have more so we’re going to take it routine, kind of sounds like a certain political party I know!

  • Anne Paschke

    It is important to note that there is no liver distribution policy proposal at this time. The OPTN/UNOS Liver Transplantation Committee seeks broad public input on any potential changes to increase equity in liver distribution. It will hold a public forum in Chicago on September 16 about concepts being considered. The committee will use the input it receives at the forum in developing a proposal that they hope to put out for public comment next Spring.
    Visit http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/news/newsDetail.asp?id=1658 for more information and to register to attend in person or via webinar.

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