WASHINGTON — The nation's transplant network is taking a long-awaited step to ease a serious disparity: Where you live affects whether you get a timely liver transplant or die waiting.
Desperate patients sometimes travel across the country to get on a shorter waiting list — if they can afford it. On Monday, the United Network for Organ Sharing is proposing a change, redrawing the map that governs how donated livers are distributed so patients wouldn't need to leave home for better odds.
"We want to make sure we give everyone a fair opportunity to get a liver transplant," said Dr. Ryutaro Hirose, chairman of the liver transplant committee at UNOS, which runs the nation's transplant system. "It's pretty much long overdue."
The problem is that some parts of the country have fewer available organs, and higher demand for them, than others. That means someone in California or New York, among the toughest places to get a new liver, tends to be sicker before getting a transplant than someone in South Carolina or Washington state.
"There's a huge difference in the risk of death on that waiting list depending on where you live," said Hirose, a transplant surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco. Shifting the boundaries that determine where a liver is offered first "matches better the organ supply and demand." Continue reading
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