New “Waitlist” Proposed To Distribute Organ Donors Based on “Equity”


( – Tens of thousands of Americans are on waitlists for organ donations, and most of them are seeking new kidneys. On top of the joy of being able to save lives, organizations have incentivized people to donate kidneys while they are alive, reassuring individual donors that for those that may need one down the road, they will be at the top of the list to receive the needed organ. However, as the federal government moves to refresh the current transplant system, this may change in an effort to provide “a more equitable approach.”

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the nonprofit group the federal government pays to run the national registry. Many people have pointed out the issues with the group, such as waste, corruption, and abuse. The Department of Health and Human Services Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network released a paper detailing the future of transplants in the US. The controversial update would move living kidney donors who develop a need for a new organ down the waitlist. This policy created a lot of pushback.

For decades, living donors have been assured of their placement at the top of the waitlist. Laura Burns commented on the government’s proposal, writing that this change is both “unethical” and “a kind of breach of contract.” Many believe that pushing living donors down the waitlist would discourage people from stepping forward to give their organs at all, making fewer kidneys available overall.

Changes to the waitlist have influenced the number of living donors stepping forward in the past. In 2005, children in need of kidneys were bumped up the waitlist. While they received the needed organ more quickly, it was often from a deceased person, which took the pressure off of relatives who typically came forward and donated their organs when kids’ lives are on the line. In the end, that policy change lowered the number of living donors. Looking at this new proposal, another decrease in living donors could be on the horizon if they are not given priority on the waitlist.

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