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Donna Grethen, Tribune Media Services

Short take: Kidney transplants

  • Article by: EDITORIAL
  • Chicago Tribune
  • October 3, 2012 - 8:12 PM

Last year, 4,720 people died while waiting for kidney transplants. Meanwhile, 2,644 kidneys were discarded.

Some of these kidneys had problems that rendered them unfit for transplant. But many could not be transplanted because the system for allocating them is inefficient and outdated.

Right now the waiting list for a kidney transplant stands at 93,702 people. The system isn't saving -- or improving -- as many lives as it could.

A committee that oversees kidney transplants in the United States recently proposed a series of smart changes to better parcel out 14,700 kidneys recovered from deceased donors. Under this plan, the top 20 percent of kidneys expected to last longest would be directed to those candidates expected to live the longest after a transplant. That typically means younger patients.

That proposal is a significant departure from the current system, which generally can be summed up as: Get in line and wait your turn. Depending on what part of the country you live in and other variables, you could wait two years or 10.

The proposed changes would yield an estimated 8,380 more years of life from one year of transplants. Think about that: 8,380 years.

We understand why some people are nervous about these changes. In a fairer world, there would be enough kidneys to go around. But there aren't. Officials have spent the last nine years seeking to make the system more efficient. Let's not wait another nine. The board that oversees transplants in the United States can -- and should -- make these changes next summer.

Thousands of people are on kidney transplant waiting lists. Every day, every week, that officials delay, people die waiting.

 

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