ORGAN TRANSPLANTS: New Policy Aims To Increase Donations
In an effort to boost stagnant organ donor rates, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new regulations yesterday that require hospitals to inform local organ donation centers of all deaths, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports. To remain eligible for Medicare payments, the nation's 5,200 Hospitals must comply with the law, which is similar to a Pennsylvania policy that boosted the state's donation rate 40% over 3 years (Brooks, 6/18). According to an HHS release, of the 12,000 to 15,000 annual deaths that could result in a donation, only 5,475 donations occurred in 1997. Although 37% of families denied consent, 3,000 to 4,000 potential donors were not identified or the families failed to receive a request. Approximately 4,000 Americans die while waiting for a transplant each year (6/17). In related news, the Washington Post reports that the Washington Hospital Center hosted a forum yesterday "aimed at debunking the idea that many religions oppose organ donation" (Murphy, 6/18).
In a separate story, CongressDaily/A.M. reports that the House Commerce health and environment subcommittee and the Senate Labor and Human Resources public health and safety subcommittee will hold a joint hearing today on new organ distribution rules, featuring HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Dr. Lawrence Hunsicker, president of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The two officials are "[c]ombatants in a nasty spat" over the proposed HHS policy, which is designed to even out organ waiting times across the country. Implementation of the new rules has been delayed until at least October 1 (Rovner, 6/18).