Just before the holidays last December, Senator Todd Young (R-Indiana) announced plans to introduce a new bill that would require greater oversight of the U.S. organ transplant network. He said 100,000 people die annually in a system that’s permitted to hide its errors from Congress and the public.
Of course, I’ve talked about the problematic organ donation process before. It’s fraught with more dangers and abuses than you could ever imagine.
So, I’m pleased to see someone looking into the matter.
Proponents proclaim we should take more organs from unhealthy donors
Sen. Young’s announcement followed two reports published in the Washington Post contending that the transplant industry could more than double the number of transplants performed each year by collecting more organs from older, less-than-healthy donors — even from people with hepatitis C infections!
The Post said this “underproduction” of sorts occurs because transplant surgeons and sick patients refuse to take organs from these less-than-ideal donors. (And why shouldn’t they refuse ?!)
The Post also claims that the transplant networks do a poor job of recovering organs, and that there are government disincentives for expanding the system.
Granted, the waiting list for organs in the U.S. is almost 115,000 people. And 33 people die each day waiting for an organ.
But upping the number of organs taken from unsuitable donors just isn’t the answer.
Plus, the entire system needs more transparency and oversight…
A call for transparency — and a stonewalled response
Earlier this year, before resorting to introducing the new congressional bill, Sen. Young had asked the federal government and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for information on 58 different non-profit organ procurement groups around the country. (UNOS is an umbrella group that supposedly “oversees” the transplant system in the U.S.)
He said he just wants to better understand what’s going on within this seemingly secretive industry. And he was quoted as saying, “After more than 30 years of our nation’s organ donation system operating in the darkness, it’s time to get a look behind the curtain.”
But — of course — the senator was rebuffed.
UNOS isn’t required to disclose information to the public, or to Congress, and shields all of its information under the guise of “medical privacy.”
The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO), the national organization that represents those 58 non-profit groups, replied that they adamantly “oppose any effort that threatens the privacy of individual donors or transplant patients.”
But that explanation is completely unacceptable. Especially since Congress is well-equipped to hold closed hearings on classified information without violating people’s privacy, as they do every day on weighty matters like national security.
Since Sen. Young failed to make headway with his original request, he plans to introduce a congressional bill. The proposed law would require federal regulators to make a determination, on a yearly basis, as to whether an organ procurement organization performed well enough to have its federal contract re-certified.
The bill would also require that Congress receive all the audits, corrective action reports, investigations, and surveys from UNOS. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) would also look into their financial practices.
The family of one would-be transplant recipient said, “In the real world, any business being subpar for so long wouldn’t be allowed…with this monopoly situation they have, there is no accountability.”
I agree that we should do a better job of protecting recipients from shady transplant organizations. But there’s a whole other side of the problem too…
We also need to do a much better job of protecting donors!
Donors and their families need more rights too
There’s no doubt that we need to help the 115,000 people waiting for organ transplants. But we also need to protect the millions of potential donors.
As I’ve reported before, donors have no rights…no rights to privacy, representation, or anything else in the organ transplant system. Plus, there are far too many cases in which donors aren’t even legally deceased before organ procurement occurs.
In the end, nobody is looking out for the rights of the donors and their families. Which is a shame since, in the United States, you don’t need to sign away your rights. Especially in matters of health and medicine.
But that’s exactly what people inadvertently and unknowingly do when they sign up to become an organ donor when they get a new Driver’s License. (And remember, the transplant industry is embedded in a mainstream medical industry that doesn’t respect the right to life.)
The current state of the industry
Clearly, the transplant industry needs major reforms to protect both the recipients and the all-but-ignored donors.
And so, for me, this latest turn-of-events is further reason to just say “no” to becoming an organ donor on your driver’s license — until they finally get their act together, instead of steadfastly resisting efforts to expose and reform their practices.
However, there’s something important I want to point out: Kidney transplants are the exception to the rule.
Doctors have been performing these highly successful procedures for more than a half-century. (They are especially successful when compared to the problematic procedures for transplanting other organs.)
Plus, a kidney can also come from a healthy, living donor who can make an informed, conscious choice to donate a kidney into an “exchange network,” or directly to a family member, friend, or loved one.
In my view, efforts should be directed on improving this part of the system, which holds great promise for many people.
In the meantime, I’ll keep you updated on any major changes made in legislation regarding transplants, so you can continue to make informed, practical decisions. Stay tuned right here for the latest insider scoop.
“Lawmaker demands reform of transplant network after Washington Post stories.” Washington Post, 12/20/2018. (washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/lawmaker-demands-reform-of-transplant-network-after-washington-post-stories/2018/12/20/b8bada44-048d-11e9-b6a9-0aa5c2fcc9e4_story.html?utm_term=.530abeeae0c9)