According to breaking news from The Washington Post, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a private, non-profit organization that contracts with the federal government to coordinate organ donations, is considering new rules for kidney donation that favor those who are younger and healthier over those who are older and sicker. Kidneys are the organs in highest demand, and the idea is to more closely match available kidneys to recipients who stand the best chance of longevity with donated kidneys.
The existing rules give priority to those on the waiting list the longest, which favors older recipients who are presumably in poorer health given the time they have been on the list. The proposed rules will take into account age and health rather than time on the list alone. As one may expect, some in the organ donation community support the proposed changes while others think they will simply discriminate against the older recipient population at a time when the population is aging – think baby boomers heading into senior status. Those with this view see the proposal as nothing more or less than age discrimination.
The current statistics on kidney donations are not promising. In the U.S., more than 87,000 hopeful kidney recipients are on a waiting list for approximately 17,000 available in the U.S. each year. An estimated 4,600 of those on the list die each year because they are not matched with a donor.
First in time versus first in right based on variable standards? That seems like a slippery slope to me. For the specific concepts of the proposal, look here. One proposal that was excerpted is described as:
Under one scenario, for 80 percent of available kidneys, patients within 15 years of the age of the donor – either older or younger – would get higher priority. The remaining 20 percent of organs – those deemed to have the best chance of functioning the longest, based on the age and health of the donor and other factors – would be given to recipients with the greatest chances of living the longest with the new organs, based on criteria such as whether they are relatively young and and free of complications such as diabetes.
Because this issues is expected to continue generating public interest and debate, public comment is being sought through April 1st. To learn more about UNOS policy development, go here. If this an issue is important to you or loved ones, get involved.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.