Organ Donations: Keep That Liver at Home

Article excerpt

It's a quiet civil war - but lives may hang in the balance.

The question is: How best can human organs be distributed to those who need them to survive? Today, more than 57,000 Americans wait for hearts, livers, lungs or kidneys that could save their lives. And 4,000 die each year waiting.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a policy last year designed to "break down geographic barriers" to organ transplants. Basically, it says organs go to the sickest patients first, no matter where they live.

The rules are not final, but states are quickly passing laws to stop them. Four have passed laws keeping donor organs within their states (Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wisconsin); six (Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas) are considering such laws.

Senator Mario Gallegos Jr. sponsored legislation that passed the Texas Senate to keep donated organs within the state. He says that new federal regulations would lengthen the times for Texas patients and also increase the fees necessary to move donated organs longer distances.

States that have changed their laws still allow organ donations with interstate agreements, but are in direct conflict with the proposed federal policy that says geography cannot be a primary factor in organ allocation.

With the laws, states also are positioning themselves for legal challenges. Opponents to the proposed federal rule say HHS overstepped its bounds to begin with.

Currently, organs are given to patients at local transplant centers, and 63 banks in the nation procure organs in their local areas and assign them to hospitals. …