New Organ Transplant Rules Help Sickest Patients
Still, HHS officials hope that the new listing criteria will now eventually help break down those regional restrictions.
"I think that the liver committee and the board has made a significant effort to come up with a revised system, and we are very encouraged by what they have done," Lynn Rothberg Wegman, MPA, director of the Division of Transplantation at HHS, tells WebMD. "We hope that they will continue to review and evaluate their policy to allow for broader sharing," she says.
But regional borders are only part of the problem, Joel Newman, a spokesman for UNOS, assures WebMD. A larger part of the problem is public awareness, he says.
Of the 15,000-20,000 potential liver donors in America, only about a third ever donate their organ, he points out. If more people were to proactively prepare for organ donations, "it would go a long way toward solving the problem," he tells WebMD.
At present, there are about 16,000 Americans waiting for a liver. In 1999, the latest year for which full figures are available, there were about 4,700 transplants performed. But during the same time period, more than 1,700 patients died because a liver could not be found in time.