TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said the federal government ought to break up the United Network of Organ Sharing’s nearly 40-year monopoly on management of the national organ procurement and transplantation network.
He said the nation was saddled with a biased transplant system and reform of contracting for the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network had become a necessity. Ending the monopoly would add transparency to management of a network dominated by the private, nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing or UNOS.
“From damaged organs to discriminatory organ donation policies, it’s clear UNOS should no longer be the sole contractor for the organ donation system,” Moran said. “I have worked for years to shed light on the mismanagement of the organ donation system and have consistently called for the contract to be divided.”
The Kansas senator said Thursday that he was sponsoring legislation in the U.S. Senate, identical to a measure put forward in the U.S. House, granting authority to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand organ network competition for contracts. The existing federal contract with UNOS is set to expire Sept. 30.
“Every organ counts, and this legislation will help overhaul the system and save lives,” Moran said. “There is no room for bias, reckless mistakes or an opaque process.”
As of May 18, there were 104,900 people in the United States in need of a transplant. From January to April, UNOS reported, there were 14,800 transplants performed in this country.
United Network for Organ Sharing, which has held that contract since 1984, said in a statement the organization supported change designed to get as many donor organs as possible to patients while increasing oversight and accountability.
“We welcome a competitive and open bidding process for the next Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network contract to advance our efforts to save as many lives as possible as equitably as possible,” UNOS said. “We believe we have the experience and expertise required to best serve the nation’s patients and to help implement HRSA’s proposed initiatives.”
Moran in the past argued donation policy adopted by UNOS led to shipment of livers donated in Kansas and other Midwest states with relatively high donation rates to coastal urban areas with lower rates of organ donation. He said that type of system was “rigged against patients in certain states simply because of their geographical location.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said UNOS’ management of the organ donor system had been “disastrous.”
“Decades of corruption and mismanagement have left vulnerable patients to die on the waiting list while unused organs from generous American donors go to waste,” Grassley said.
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