Congress becoming involved in debate over access to donated livers

Liver transplant recipient Luke Harbur tells the story of his transplant that he received as an infant, as he shows his scar during a high school organ and tissue donor presentation on January 8, 2014.

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KANSAS CITY | Dave Helling

  • A debate over how livers are obtained for liver transplants is edging its way to Congress
  • High-donation areas are worried organs will be sent to other parts of the country under the new rules
  • Rep. Kevin Yoder says local areas shouldn’t be penalized
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An obscure but important debate over how livers are obtained for liver transplants is edging its way to Congress, and may be joined later this summer.

At issue is the complicated system for getting donated livers to transplant recipients who need them. The system was designed to replace the haphazard liver distribution system of the 1980s and 1990s.

The system is now administered by something called UNOS — the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private group that manages available livers under a federal contract. UNOS uses a formula based in part on geography: available livers are distributed locally first, through so-called “donation service areas.”

The group is now re-thinking that formula. It turns out that some areas of the country have fewer livers available than others, and the new rule is aimed at distributing available organs more broadly. Continue reading
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