Hearts, livers, and other organs donated for transplant surgery are in short supply. About 900 people are on waiting lists for new hearts, and 475 are awaiting liver transplants, while 10,000 need new kidneys.
Given those figures, it's dismaying to read a recent report from a New York hospital that says nearly half of donated hearts and livers went to waste over a two-year period. The hospital said 20 livers and 23 hearts could not be matched in time with people needing them.The University of Rochester Medical Center cited four reasons for the wastage: It said () the national computer network that supposedly matches donors and recipients had too many inaccurate listings; () some transplant centers preferred local donors; () transplant teams were not immediately available, and () given the delays, some organs were not able to be used.
Part of the problem was that the New York hospital did not have a heart and liver transplant program of its own and had to send the organs elsewhere.
Utah organ transplant officials, however, doubt that the New York experience reflects a nationwide situation.
There is some wastage, but in Utah, a transplant center for the region, it amounts to very little. Given the shortage, one might wonder why would there by any wastage at all? Yet there are reasons.
First, blood types and body sizes must be matched, something that often can't be done immediately. Kidney transplants must take place within 36 hours; liver transplants within eight hours, and heart transplants within four hours - after those organs are removed from a donor.
Clearly, if a match can't be made locally in quick fashion, then flying the donated organ elsewhere is a race against the clock.
Utah officials say the national computer network has been accurate and helpful in placing donated organs with recipients elsewhere.
Utahns who may wish to donate organs in case of death should be reassured that their generosity will not be wasted - and that donations are still badly needed.