Congressman Blumenauer Writes a Letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to Halt Harmful Liver Allocation Policy

May 3, 2019
Press Release

Today, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) led 80 other members of Congress in writing a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting that they immediately rescind the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)/United Network for Organ Sharing policy (UNOS), a harmful new liver transplant allocation policy.

“The policy attempts to reform access for available donors to ‘establish greater consistency’ in the geographic areas used to match liver transplant candidates with available organs from deceased donors and reduce geographic differences in liver transplant access” the lawmakers wrote. “However, instead this change will simply move livers from rural/low income areas of the country to wealthier locations without any legal or medical rationale for doing so.”

“The Department of Health and Human Services should be pursuing policies that promote better organ procurement organization performance in every part of the country, not policies that pull organs from high-performing regions to the benefit of low-performing areas. We strongly urge that HHS immediately rescind the December 2018 policy and exercise your authority by directing the OPTN/UNOS to develop a new policy that achieves the best use of donated organs for all Americans.”

Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Health System, John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S said “The acuity circles policy will create more risk for patients, donor organs and transplant teams, and result in significantly higher transplantation costs overall. Ultimately, more patients, particularly the underserved and those in rural areas, will die waiting for a liver, fewer organs will be transplanted and the usability of existing organs will be needlessly compromised due to increased travel time.”

In December 2018, the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) adopted a new national liver distribution and allocation policy that removed regional boundaries from the allocation methodology. Consequently, organs that were once distributed locally, will now be sent farther away to areas with lower rates of organ procurement. This change will simply move highly coveted livers from rural and lower income areas of the South, Midwest, and Northwest to big cities with larger populations and more demand, more than doubling the median distance that livers travel and resulting in an overall reduction in the number of transplants nationally.


You can read the full text of the letter here.