ORGAN TRANSPLANTS: Wisconsin Will File Suit Over Rules
Wisconsin will file a federal lawsuit next week to block new federal regulations "intended to change the way scarce donated organs are distributed," the AP/Chicago Tribune reports. Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) said that the federal rules, which will take effect tomorrow, "unlawfully substitute the personal judgement of HHS Secretary Donna Shalala for that of medical professionals in making transplant policy." He added, "This rule won't save lives -- it just allows political appointees to decide which lives are saved." The proposed rules order the nation's transplant network to develop and implement a new system that would "send more organs to the sickest patients." Wisconsin "stands to lose" under the new proposals because of its high organ donation rate. The state's patients receive organs "faster than those in other states."
In attempts to comply with the new federal rules, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Monday agreed to submit new guidelines for distributing donated livers. Wisconsin, which has developed a nationally recognized organ donation system, opposes UNOS's new guidelines, "fearing its organs will be siphoned to other states." Thompson said the lawsuit will be filed Monday and will include others states as plaintiffs. He argued that Shalala is "exceeding the authority granted to her by Congress." But policy experts and others maintain that it would be "unconstitutional for Shalala to lose authority to set policy" (3/15). More than 4,800 people died in 1998 waiting for transplants and 68,000 are currently on waiting lists (AP/Washington Post, 3/15).