ORGAN DONATION: HHS Earmarks $5M to Increase Rates
Hoping to increase organ donation, the HHS has launched a $5 million extramural program to fund 15 to 20 projects aimed at increasing organ and tissue donation. "In order to achieve new, significant increases, we must not only expand our outreach as we've already done -- we must also increase the rate at which families and others consent to donation when asked," said HHS Deputy Secretary Kevin Thurm, adding, "This new effort is aimed especially at learning what works best to increase consent rates." According to the HHS, 63,000 patients are currently awaiting organs, while only half of the nation's families who are asked to donate the deceased's organs give their consent. More than 4,000 patients die awaiting a transplant each year, while the number of potential donors ranges between 8,000 and 15,000. The program, which will support projects for three years, will test new interventions as well as established interventions known to be effective in organ procurement and improving organ donation consent rates (HRSA release, 5/24).
Despite lagging organ donation rates, a Dayton Daily News editorial decries Pennsylvania's to pay $300 toward a deceased organ donor's funeral expenses, claiming the stipend falsely assumes that "a financial reward -- and a ridiculously small one at that -- would increase donations when studies have shown that the reasons families turn down requests have little to do with money." Rather, the editorial notes, families reject organ donation due to ill-timed and insensitive organ requests, dissatisfaction with the deceased's medical care, lack of consent from the deceased and "the erroneous belief that the deceased's body would be disfigured, preventing an open-casket funeral." While Pennsylvania's sum is paltry, the editorial warns against raising the price and violating the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act as well as increasing "the potential for exploitation of the poor or for black markets or even for medical institutions to use pay-for-organ plans to boost their competitive edges." The editorial suggests Pennsylvania's strategy "would be more credible if the $300-per-patient 'reward' went to organ-procurement agencies that are working to overcome the obstacles identified as why families say no" (5/24).