Saving Lives by Eliminating the Organ Waiting List
Twenty-two people die every day waiting for an organ that never arrives. While the supply of available organs has remained flat, the need for organ transplants continues to grow. As a result, there are more than 120,000 people currently on the organ waiting list, a number that is expected to rise each year.
The average wait time for patients is three to five years — far too long for many people. Those who are able to wait that long are often required to get hooked up to a dialysis machine three times a week for multiple hours at a time. Dialysis is not only far more expensive than a transplant; it also has far worse health outcomes for patients.
Our team at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) is working to eliminate the organ waiting list and ensure that everyone who needs an organ transplant is able to receive one.
Today, we attended the White House Organ Summit and joined representatives from government agencies, universities, hospitals, and other organizations that are working to increase the number of organ transplants and eliminate the waiting list. During the event, I was pleased to announce that we are expanding our portfolio of investments in this area with two new grants.
The first aims to increase the number of organs that each donor is able to give. One organ donor has the potential to save up to eight lives. However, today we are only transplanting about three organs per donor. We can do better. That’s why LJAF has committed $4.2 million to launch the Donor Management Research Initiative, which will build the rigorous research and scientific evidence base needed to maximize the number of organs per donor and ultimately increase the number of lives saved. The Initiative is a partnership between Oregon Health and Science University; the University of California, San Francisco; and the United Network for Organ Sharing.
The second grant will address the number of organs that are generously donated but never used. Currently, about one in five organs is discarded despite the possibility that many of those organs could be life saving. In partnership with the American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, we are funding research studies that will evaluate the incentives that drive the current transplant system and explore alternative ways to measure performance.
These grants are part of our broader organ donation and transplantation strategy, which seeks to increase the number of eligible donors, maximize the quantity and quality of organs that each donor is able to give, and minimize the number of organs that are unnecessarily discarded.
With these two grants and the other efforts discussed today at the White House Organ Summit, we hope to eliminate the waiting list and improve the lives of thousands of Americans.