As surprising as it might seem to those focused on partisan politics, sometimes leaders and administrations of different ideological stripes can work together in a way that benefits the public. One example comes from the nation’s system of organ donation and reforms that quite literally will give the gift of life.
Recently, the Biden administration announced an overhaul of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Among many changes, the administration said it would overhaul the organ transplant network’s failed IT systems. Just as important, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would end the monopoly contract that one organization has to run the organ transplant network nationwide.
The most recent steps follow bipartisan investigations that have examined multiple failings in the organ donation and procurement system. For instance, a Senate Finance Committee report released last summer found more than 1,000 complaints regarding organ transplantation, including such egregious errors as organ transplant staff throwing a donated kidney in the trash.
The Biden administration’s actions also build upon reforms enacted by its predecessor to increase efficiency and accountability. The Trump administration took steps to incentivize organ donation and subject the 56 regional organ procurement organizations to greater scrutiny, including the potential for competition if they fail to measure up. Now, the Biden administration is extending that accountability to the entity that works with the regional OPOs to coordinate transplants nationwide.
In addition to actions by Congress and two administrations, other independent investigations have demonstrated the myriad flaws in our current system of organ donation. For instance, the organ transplant system improperly discards healthy organs in ways that cause patients to die unnecessarily while waiting for transplants. Moreover, the organ transplant network relies on archaic and clunky technology that federal officials note has crashed repeatedly, requires manual data entry, and is susceptible to hacking and other cybersecurity threats.
Technological improvements lie at the center of the recently announced reforms by the Biden administration. As part of an effort to increase transparency, a new data dashboard provides granular details about organ donation. Visitors to the dashboard site can find information on donations and transplants by type of organ, both nationally and in particular states.
Most importantly, people also can find data on outcomes, both how long it took for recipients to come off the transplant waitlist and survival rates following transplantation, separated out by transplant center. This dashboard provides an important step toward giving patients the quality information they desperately want and deserve, not just for organ transplants but for all forms of healthcare.
Knowing that approximately 6,000 Americans die every year while waiting for an organ transplant, I grieve for the families who lost loved ones unnecessarily because of the inefficiencies in our current system of organ donation.
That’s why I support this administration’s effort to bring accountability to the national organ transplant network, just as I supported the Trump administration’s steps to bring accountability to the 56 regional OPOs.
Fixing our nation’s system of organ transplantation will require Congress to work together in a common effort to save lives. Thankfully, successive administrations have done just that.