Organ Shortage Needs Multi-Faceted Approach

CojoThe National Kidney Foundation's (NKF) Board of Directors has announced a comprehensive action plan to address the urgent need to increase the number of organs available for transplantation in the U.S. The END THE WAIT! initiative is a virtual call-to-arms designed to put in place tested and proven actions relating to education, financial and medical practice. The initiative, announced publicly in USA Today on January 29, will begin immediately and end the wait for kidney transplants within 10 years.

Rather than seek small changes or single-issue amendments to existing laws, the foundation plans to work with Congress to craft legislation that will address all the barriers to donation. The END THE WAIT! initiative will complement, not amend, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) that bans the sale of organs and the Uniform Anatomical Gift Acts (UAGA) that enable potential donors to legally indicate their wishes on their driver's licenses.

"The national transplant waiting list hit 100,000 this year for the first time," says John Davis, NKF CEO, "Most of the people on this list will wait too long for an organ and too many will die while waiting. We've decided to meet this core challenge head on and lead a broad-based initiative that will eliminate barriers to donation, institute best practices across the country, cover the cost of donation and increase the pool of living and deceased donors."

"Instead of debating the merits of untested strategies that may or may not motivate people to donate, we're unveiling a national plan that combines the ‘best of the best' tactics that have worked in some regions of the country to increase donation. We are committed to making the disincentives to donation go away," continues Davis.

The END THE WAIT!recommendations focus on four key areas, including:

  • Improving outcomes of first transplants, therefore reducing the need for second transplants through measures such as covering the cost of needed immunosuppressive drugs for life;
  • Increasing deceased donation through training of hospital personnel about the optimal care for potential donor families and by recovering and utilizing organs from Extended Criteria Donors (such as donors who were older or sick) and from donors who have experienced cardiac death in addition to those who were brain dead;
  • Increasing the number of living donors by ensuring that they are reimbursed for all expenses involved in the donation, including lost wages, by providing access to health care and life insurance coverage and by offering them state-of- the-art medical care that ensures the quickest post-surgical recovery time;
  • Improving the system of donation and transplantation throughout the U.S. by eliminating regional variations in access to transplantation and follow-up care and racial disparities in donating, getting on the waiting list and receiving a transplant.

This initiative was developed in consultation with national experts in the field and NKF's constituents, including kidney patients, potential donors, transplant recipients and candidates, living donors and family members of deceased donors.

According to Tom Falsey, who donated a kidney to a stranger in need, "I have seen what the miracle of transplantation can mean. My teenage recipient no longer needs to be hooked up to a dialysis machine three days a week. His mother can once again see his freckles that were invisible during his illness. That is all the reward I need. But I also feel that you shouldn't have to take money out of your pocket to save someone else's life. I live in Kansas and my recipient was in Nebraska so I covered all the costs of travel back and forth to the transplant center in order to be a donor. This is common practice now, but we need to do a better job of covering the costs so that people will not be turned off from the whole process."

The National Kidney Foundation, Inc. (NKF), is the major voluntary health organization dedicated to preventing kidney disease, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by kidney disease and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.

For more information on organ donation, NKF's position statement and a full list of the END THE WAIT! Recommendations, visit http://www.kidney.org/news/end_the_wait/index.cfm