TISSUE BANKS: Shalala Issues Preliminary Report
HHS Secretary Donna Shalala Tuesday released a "wide-ranging" initial report on the human tissue industry that calls for families who donate their relatives' organs to be informed of profits made by these "gifts," the Orange County Register reports. Part of a "broad investigation" of the growing industry, the report indicates that "federal regulators are speeding up efforts to determine how many tissue banks" are running in the U.S. Stemming from an investigation by the Orange County Register, the review of the tissue trade industry focuses on four key areas of concern: safety of the tissue supply, shortages of tissue for burn victims, donor consent and fees and profit. Shalala acknowledged that enforcing laws that ban profits on the sale of body parts exceeds HHS' authority. Given those limitations, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) cited a need for "congressional intervention." He said, "We ought to be moving to congressional hearings. There needs to be a much more precise definition of what can be done by the attorney general and what can be done legislatively." However, lawmakers and ethicists voiced concern that the HHS investigation has relied on "industry players" -- the same organizations that have paved the way for tissue banks to serve as "middlemen for private companies." Laurie Rosenow, attorney at the Institute for Science Law and Technology in Chicago, said, "It's the classic fox guarding the hen house. You have to ask, who is the government serving? Are they serving the public or the private institutions here?" Wyden added, "We want the findings at the end of the day to be credible." However, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) was pleased with the initial report, calling it a "strong first step" (Katches/Heisel, 8/9).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.