Is There a Better Way to Allocate Organs to Transplant Patients?

Based on the research of Chaithanya Bandi, Nikolaos Trichakis, Phebe Vayanos and James Schummer

Two ideas for changing a system where people linger on waitlists while kidneys spoil.

Imagine you are waiting for a kidney transplant. A kidney becomes available. Now you and your doctor must make a stark choice: accept it, even if the quality level is not ideal, or hold out for a better one that might last longer.

A kidney from a healthy young person who was killed in a car accident, for instance, will function for many more years than a kidney from a 75-year-old with high blood pressure. But when people turn down organs, they run the risk that a higher-quality one will not arrive for a long time.

“The question is, should you be accepting this kidney or not?” says Chaithanya Bandi, an assistant professor of operations at the Kellogg School.

That decision has ripple effects for others on the kidney transplant waiting list, which currently has about 100,000 patients. As potential recipients consider their choices, the clock is ticking. If too many people reject the organ, it may spoil within 48 hours. Then no one benefits. Continue reading 

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