People are Dying on the Waiting List

This July, CODE is highlighting a tragic reality for the nearly 120,000 men, women, and children who are currently waitlisted: roughly 8,000 people die each year because they lack the necessary access to a lifesaving transplant. The research surrounding this fact is abundant, and the time to act is now. 

Under the current local distribution system, research indicates that there is wide disparity in a candidate’s chances of receiving a liver. For example, one study found that for patients who were equally sick, 90-day transplant rates ranged from 18% to 86% across donation service areas (DSA). That study also highlighted that among candidates with MELD scores between 21 and 34, the probability of transplant within 90 days for candidates with the same score varied widely across organ procurement organizations, ranging from under 30% to over 90%. Additional evidence of the ongoing disparity can be seen through the higher overall death rates in places where patients are forced to wait longer to receive a life-saving transplant.
For patients with very high MELD scores, findings indicate a 90-day probability of waitlist death ranging widely from 14% in some DSAs to 82% in others. Patients who are forced to wait longer to receive a transplant also have a higher chance of dying after the procedure, as pre-transplant MELD score have been demonstrated to correlate inversely with posttransplant survival. These staggering statistics demonstrate that the costs of waiting for candidates in some areas have indeed been high, lowering their chances of survival both before and after transplant.
Every candidate for a life-saving liver transplant should have an equal shot at getting one. OPTN and UNOS must continue to move forward with well-developed, thoughtful concepts that will save lives. As the well-documented disparities in liver distribution linger, our shared values of equality in access to organ transplant cannot be achieved. Many patients must continue to wait a long time, get too sick, or die before they can receive a transplant. It’s time to #ActNowUNOS!

Billy Wynne