WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is seeking to break up the network that has long run the nation’s organ transplant system as part of a broader modernization effort aimed at reducing wait times and the number of patients who die while waiting.
More than 100,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant, which has long been limited by an imbalance between supply and demand. Patients sometimes wait years for donated organs, and people die every day. This was not the first attempt at reform; 25 years ago, the The Clinton administration tried its own modernization effort.
For nearly four decades, the system has been in operation United Network for Organ Sharing, A national nonprofit called UNOS, under contract with the federal government, coordinates the work of transplant hospitals and organ procurement agencies to match transplant recipients with donated organs.
Critics have long said the system is ineffective and lacks transparency. Central government officials say that the computer system for matching is outdated.
The Biden administration is now putting the network up for bid, hoping to foster competition in a system that effectively operates as a monopoly. But any reform will be slow, said Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the division of clinical ethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, who has studied alternative ethics for decades.
Officials also want to end the current practice in which members of the UNOS panel sit on the board of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, a group of professionals established by Congress to determine policy on organ transplants. Officials consider this a conflict of interest.
Administration and A Website It will, for the first time, provide detailed, de-identified data on transplant waiting lists, donors and recipients. The site will also include outcomes for individual hospitals to help patients and their families make decisions about where to seek care. There were moves The Washington Post previously reported.
“Every day, patients and families across America rely on the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network to save the lives of their loved ones experiencing organ failure,” Carol Johnson, Health Resources and Services Administration, branch administrator overseeing the transplant care system at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.
He said the overhaul was intended to “bring greater transparency to the system and reform and modernize the network,” adding that “individuals and families who depend on this life-saving work deserve no less.”