Are Kidney Donation Policies in the United States Fair? They may change. (VIDEO)

By Judy Feldman on September 21, 2012 4:14 PM EDT

A patient is prepared for surgery to receive a donated kidney as part of a five-way organ transplant swap in New York, August 1, 2012.
A patient is prepared for surgery to receive a donated kidney as part of a five-way organ transplant swap in New York, August 1, 2012. (Photo: Reuters/ Keith Bedford)

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the nonprofit organization that manages organ donations in the U.S., announced today their proposed changes for the way in which it is decided who gets which kidney. And they are asking for public comment. Please scroll to the end of this article,  to see where you can comment.

Now more than 93,000 people are waiting for needed kidneys. As of this week, more than 115,000 people are waiting for a heart, lung, liver, kidney or other organ, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, as reported by NBCNews. There is far more demand than supply. 

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The proposed new change: The healthiest organs ready for transplant would be donated to the youngest recipients in waiting - in other words, those who would be able to benefit for the longest period of survival and healthy lifetime looking forward.

Current policies: Now, the available kidneys are donated to the people who have been on the waiting list for the longest time. In addition, another factor is that the sicker a person is, the more likely they are to receive a kidney. This strategy meant that sometimes a high-quality and healthy kidney may go to some very sick patients, while some relatively poor quality kidneys go to those who were in relatively good shape - except for their kidney failure.  One obvious problem with this method is that sometimes a less-healthy kidney is donated to someone who then lives a long time, and must then require one or even two more transplants. With the new proposal, this would be far less likely to occur.  

Efficiency and ethics are part of the discussion. Arthur Caplan, the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center believes and shares his views that:  "The shift in UNOS policy toward putting the best quality kidneys in those most likely to do well with them over the long haul makes good moral sense.

Of course, the comments that will be submitted will likely reflect the difficulty of that decision. Giving the best kidneys to the youngest people will no doubt raise accusations of age discrimination, if not an outright effort to eliminate the old and sick.

There are no easy answers when rationing is the only choice. That does not mean, however, that some strategies are not better than others. When it comes to saving lives, saving more lives that last longer seems best."  (To read Caplan's  entire article, go here.) 

To view the new proposal, and to submit comments, go here. And, for more information about kidney donations and transplants, also see the National Kidney Foundation, here

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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