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Organ transplant revamp brings mixed reviews

Maya Goldman
Jul 25, 2023
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Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The House of Representatives is poised to pass changes to the organ transplant and procurement system this week.

  • The bipartisan bill is on the House suspension calendar for this week. A bipartisan companion bill in the Senate has been referred to the HELP Committee.

Why it matters: A Senate Finance Committee investigation found significant issues with how the United Network for Organ Sharing runs the country’s organ procurement and transplant system.

  • UNOS has run the system exclusively for more than 30 years.

How it works: The bill would explicitly give HHS the authority to solicit bids from multiple public and private entities to run the country's Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

  • Current law only permits HHS to contract with a non-profit entity in organ procurement and transplantation.

Yes, but: Some onlookers say the transplant system needs to remain under nonprofit control.

  • "Continuous assessment and improvement is our goal. But that goal should not be compromised to the point that profit is the number one motive," Clive Callender, a transplant surgeon and founder of the National Minority Tissue Transplant Education Program, told Axios.
  • Transplant recipient Patrick McGlone also sent a letter to lawmakers last week urging them to revise the House and Senate bills.
  • "The inherent strength of an OPTN run by non-profits is that they have no other goals than to save as many lives as possible," McGlone, a UNOS ambassador, wrote in his letter.
  • UNOS does not oppose the policy moving through Congress.
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