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Transplant statistics all bad news

Posted Jun 18 2009 1:51pm
The number of deceased organ donors in the United States went down in 2008. So did the number of live organ donors. According to an article on NephrOnline, this is the first time this has happened since UNOS started tracking donor statistics 20 years ago.

According to UNOS data, the number of transplants in the United States also went down in 2008. What went up? The number of people waiting for transplants, and the number of people added to the transplant waiting list. The transplant waiting list hit 100,000 for the first time in 2008. About 50,000 more people will join the list in 2009.

Is there any good news? According to the NephrOnline article, "UNOS also noted that the reported deaths on the transplant waiting list have decreased each year nationwide since hitting a peak of 6,926 in 2004. The current data shows there were 6,229 reported deaths in 2008."



With fewer donors, fewer transplants, and more people waiting can it really be that fewer people are dying? As it turns out, the answer is no. This statistic only measures people who were removed from the waiting list because they died. There's another important category: people who were removed from the waiting list before they died. These people are removed from the list because while they were waiting they became too sick to undergo transplant surgery. This number has been going up.



These people usually die shortly after being removed from the waiting list. If you add these people to the people who died while still on the waiting list, you get a better picture of annual deaths from the organ shortage. Annual deaths continue to increase.



More than half of the people on the waiting list will die before they get a transplant, and the organ shortage keeps getting worse every year. LifeSharers has published a proposal that will turn things around: UNOS should establish two waiting lists. UNOS should have an 'A' list for registered organ donors and a 'B' list for non-donors. UNOS should allocate an organ to someone on the 'B' list only if it isn't needed by anyone on the 'A' list.

More people would donate their organs if refusing to donate would put them on the 'B' list. If UNOS adopted the LifeSharers proposal, thousands of lives would be saved every year.

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