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Damaged organs and long wait for a transplant: the US launches a plan to solve a problem that could save lives


About 104,000 people in the US are waiting for a transplant and about 17 die waiting every day, but organs often arrive late, are damaged or benefit wealthy white families, experts say.

By Berkeley Lovelace Jr. -

NBC News

The federal government presented a plan Wednesday to

make changes to the nation's organ transplant system

, which has been plagued with problems, including damaged or discarded organs and long waiting lists.

About 104,000 people in the United States are on the waiting list for an organ transplant, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.

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A total of 17 people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant.

A system that benefits rich white people

According to experts, the current system is ineffective and usually benefits wealthy white people who have the resources to travel where organs are available.

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"There are multiple issues that need to be addressed," said Dr. Stuart Knechtle, a general surgeon at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, North Carolina.

"It's clear that different groups of people are served differently, based on their race and geographic location."

People tied to the system have been trying to implement improvements for more than a decade, Dr. David Mulligan, a surgeon specializing in transplantation and immunology at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, said in an interview.

"We have to be able to get organs from donors to patients in a faster and more efficient way

," he said.

The plan – outlined by the Department of Health in a press release – would double to $67 million in fiscal year 2024 the funds the government agency receives to modernize the nation's transplant system.

The current system is old, based on a model from the 1980s, Knechtle stressed.

A new program would provide patients with more up-to-date information, giving them more control over the transplant process, she said.

It would also help deal with equity issues, in which people who should be referred for a transplant are passed over or seen too late.

The national system for organ transplantation has been criticized for being delayed and ineffective. BSIP

The US government would also take some responsibilities away from the United Network for Organ Sharingm –commonly known as UNOS– and hand it over to other organizations.

Damaged organs and delivery delays

UNOS, a nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Virginia, has been the sole administrator of the nation's transplant system since 1986, when the federal government awarded it the contract.

The group has essentially operated as a monopoly in control of the system that gets donated organs to patients who need them.

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The group has been blamed by US lawmakers and other organizations for failing to properly manage organ procurement and transplant centers, resulting in damaged organs and delays that have aborted transplants, said Mulligan, a former UNOS president.

Mulligan added that some criticism is unfair.

The idea of ​​sharing responsibilities, Mulligan explained, seeks more collaboration, which could make the system more efficient and save more lives.

UNOS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

When do the changes take effect?

The government plan would also create an independent committee of directors and create a website to give the public more information, including organ availability, waiting list results and demographic information about the patients who receive them.

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That would create "transparency and accountability in the system," said Carole Johnson, administrator of the Department of Health.

"Every day, patients and families throughout the United States depend on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to save the lives of their loved ones with organ failure."

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No date has been set for the changes, Johnson said in an interview with NBC News, noting that the agency wants to do the revamp in a "thoughtful" way.

Knechtle said he was "looking forward to" the changes.

"There has been a lot of criticism of the system and we agree with it," he said.

In January, UNOS proposed a series of reforms to improve the organ transplant system, including creating new tools that would help patients navigate the donation and transplant process.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2023-03-23

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