Future uncertain for liver transplant organs in South

The Tennesseean | Tom Wilemon

Currently, the U.S. is divided into 11 organ-sharing regions. (Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

The nation's top transplant surgeons met three weeks ago in Chicago.

They didn't talk medicine. They argued logistics.

The issue is a controversial plan to address geographic disparities in liver transplants that would shorten wait times in some areas of the country at the expense of others. This committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing has debated for a year the redistricting proposal — one that Vanderbilt University Medical Center opposes.

Dr. Seth Karp, director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center, is a member of that committee, and he's worried. The committee punted making a decision on June 23, but one is coming. Karp said the changes are projected to shift a substantial number of organs from the South to the Northeast and could decrease the availability of livers in Tennessee by about 30 percent.

"At the end of the day, this is rearranging deck chairs; it is not saving lives," Karp said.

Currently, the U.S. is divided into 11 organ-sharing regions. The proposals are to reduce the number to eight or four districts. Another proposal introduced at the June meeting is to develop a concentric circle sharing system using the 11 existing districts. Continue reading