ORGAN ALLOCATION: States Reflect On Policy Issue
U.S. News & World Report details the "reason it's so tough to find a solution" to the organ allocation conundrum by examining the current organ sharing dispute between Illinois and Wisconsin. Illinois has low donation rates but some of the country's busiest and most advanced transplant centers, while Wisconsin maintains one of the nation's highest donation rates. Because of the current rules, 1,200 Illinois residents in need of new livers face an average wait of about 300 days each, while 111 Wisconsin patients wait about 110 days. Wisconsin doctors attribute the discrepancy to "Illinois's habit of putting patients on transplant lists earlier, when they are less sick" and charge that Wisconsin organs often are shuttled to Illinois because of the larger transplant centers.
Same Game, New Rules?
Currently, Congress, the United Network for Organ Sharing and HHS continue to haggle over whether the organ allocation system should be based on need or geography. A new federal rule issued by HHS Secretary Donna Shalala would award priority to the sickest patients, but the measure is on hold pending congressional decision. Complicating the issue is that hospitals "stand to make millions of dollars from their transplant centers, and a change that requires giving priority to the sickest patients -- who often go to the biggest centers -- could force smaller facilities to close." Patients also might have to travel further for surgery with such a rule change. Judy Miller, a Wisconsin native residing in Illinois while waiting for a liver, asked, "If someone is giving an organ because they want to give life to another person, does it make any difference what state (the patient) is living in?" (Shapiro, April 24 issue).