City dwellers on the liver transplant waiting list will soon have a much greater chance of receiving a new organ thanks to the decision of a federal judge not to block a new method of allocating livers from deceased donors, The Washington Post reports.
While liver donors are more likely to have died in rural areas, those seeking a new organ are more likely to live in cities. Consequently, because U.S. policy governing liver donations has traditionally favored individuals on waiting lists who live relatively close to a donor, this has resulted in a lopsided system that effectively prioritizes the smaller number of rural individuals seeking a new liver. People in cities typically have to wait longer for a new liver, which can greatly jeopardize their prognosis.
The federal government established new rules in December 2018 that will allow those on waiting lists, depending on the severity of their illness, to access a liver from a donor as far away as 500 nautical miles from their hospital.
A collection of plaintiffs, including patients and hospitals in states such as Georgia, Kentucky, Kansas and Virginia, sued the federal government seeking to block the new rule. The suit, filed in April 2019, claimed that the new policy would lead the plaintiffs to lose out on 256 livers annually.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg declined the suit’s call to permanently block the new rules for distributing livers to those on the waiting list.
There is currently a waiting list of some 113,000 people seeking new organs, including 13,000 waiting for a transplanted liver at any given time. In 2019, there were almost 8,900 liver transplants.
In a statement, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that runs the U.S. transplant system through a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services, said Totenberg’s decision “will allow a national liver transplant policy to begin saving more lives and increasing fairness in the donor matching process.”
The new rules are slated to be put in place within a matter of weeks.
To read the Washington Post article, click here.