Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Until recently, livers donated in the Carolinas would likely stay in the Carolinas. As of February, donated livers are required by a new policy to be offered to the most pressing candidates within a 575-mile area.
The new policy, developed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, means a liver from Charlotte could be flown as far away as Philadelphia. Proponents argue these life-saving organs will go to candidates with the greatest need. Opponents worry costs will rise and patients in the Carolinas will suffer.
In terms of organ donations, North Carolina benefited from the old system. In 2017 North Carolina had the sixth largest organ donor registry in the country. It was also ranked 10th in the nation for deaths by stroke and 13th in the nation for opioid-involved overdose deaths. Brain death is common from stroke and overdose victims, which happens to make other organs, including the heart, kidneys and liver, good options for organ transplants.
There are currently over 112,000 people on the national transplant waiting list, while there were less than 40,000 total transplants last year. In 2018, an average of 17 people died every day waiting for a transplant.
Science and technology may hold a solution for the organ shortage, including lab-grown or animal organs. Some even argue to legalize the option to buy and sell our organs.
What does the future of organ transplants hold – not just for the Carolinas, but the nation as a whole?
Mark Russo, medical director of liver transplantation for Atrium Health