Milwaukee, WI (April 15, 2009) — Froedtert Hospital, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Donor Network are joining with other medical centers and organ transplant programs in Wisconsin and around the country to halt a fast-moving proposal that could send needed transplant organs out of state.
The controversial proposal at issue would change the way in which organ donor livers are distributed from a state-based to a regional allocation system. Under the proposal, patients in Wisconsin who need a liver transplant would be forced to compete against transplant candidates in Illinois and Minnesota for donor organs. Under the existing rules, the neediest and most appropriate patient in the state receives the donor organ. Today, about 75 percent of organs donated in Wisconsin stay in Wisconsin. Under the proposed system, less than 40 percent of livers donated in Wisconsin would stay in Wisconsin.
In response, Froedtert Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the Medical College, and the Wisconsin Donor Network (the federally certified agency that procures and distributes organs in southeastern Wisconsin) have joined with a group of other transplant centers and organ procurement organizations in at-risk states to form the National Organ Transplant Access Coalition (NOTAC). The group is pressing the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and Congressional leaders to put the proposal on hold while the impact on Wisconsin and similarly situated states is more thoroughly considered, and until more evidence of potential benefits of the proposal can be generated.
According to NOTAC, the proposal was put forth quietly by UNOS, the entity which oversees and manages the nation's donor and transplant organ systems. UNOS is a contractor to DHHS. UNOS fast-tracked the liver reallocation proposal — one which could set the stage for reallocating other donor organs — at a time when DHHS had no top decision-maker. Also, there has been limited opportunity for broad public input.
Jay Campbell, director of the Wisconsin Donor Network, said, "In addition to the adverse effect on Wisconsin patients who need a liver transplant, there is the very real likelihood that organ donations in Wisconsin will decline if donors and their families believe their organs will no longer stay in the local community. These are not risks that we can afford to take in matters of life and death."
Brian Shames, liver transplant surgeon with Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Transplant Center and the medical director of pediatric transplantation at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, said, “It’s important to note that this policy change may harm patients but there is little or no data to indicate a meaningful national benefit would result from it. Furthermore, the effect this policy may have on cost for transplant patients and payers has not been evaluated.”
Patients, donor families and other concerned members of the community are encouraged to voice their opposition to the proposal. NOTAC's Web site contains a link to allow interested individual or organizations to share their comments by April 24, 2009, the deadline for submissions.