Organ Transplant Waiting List Hits 75,000
The United Network for Organ Sharing announced Friday that the waiting list for organ transplants now exceeds 75,000, "a benchmark that officials marked with a plea for donations," the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. The list has grown "steadily" in the past decade -- in 1990, 20,481 people were waiting for an organ transplant. Patricia Adams, the president of UNOS, which administers the nation's transplant waiting list under a contract with HHS, said, "In a way, we've become victim of our own success. With the success and acceptance of organ transplantation, it has become routine therapy for many diseases. We have the know-how to save tens of thousands of lives. What we don't have is enough donated organs to make it possible." In the last decade, the number of people waiting for a transplant grew "five times as fast as the number of transplant operations," and the number of deaths among individuals on the waiting list grew from 1,958 in 1990 to 6,125 in 1999 (Meckler, AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/10). UNOS' annual report on organ transplants, issued last month, can be accessed at http://www.unos.org/Data/anrpt_main.htm.
Addressing the shortage of donated organs, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday unveiled a proposal to create a national database of organ donors available through the Internet "that would allow organ procurement agencies to instantly find potential donors and match them with recipients," the New York Times reports. The Organ and Tissue Donation Enhancement Act of 2001, which Schumer introduced last week, would create a nationwide electronic registry that would list the name, address, birth date, sex, height and eye color of every donor in the country (Day, New York Times, 3/12). New York is one of only 10 states that have organ registries. To facilitate their development nationwide, Schumer's bill would offer $100,000 in federal grants to the other 40 states. In addition, organ donation would be encouraged by including brochures about becoming a donor along with federal tax forms (Varghese, Newsday, 3/12). The senator said that the program would be supervised by HHS, and would cost $25 to $30 million a year. "When you talk to the people awaiting organs and their families and you just look into their eyes, you know how important this is," Schumer said, adding, "This one is not very expensive and would do so much that it's hard to see how it wouldn't fly through Congress and be signed by the president." HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson last month said the department would work to develop a "national effort" to increase the number of organ donors. Commenting on Schumer's proposal, HHS spokesperson Campbell Gardett said, "We do need a way to record and honor people's intent. It is an idea that the department would want to look at" (New York Times, 3/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.