Need a kidney? Plan would favor young

February 24, 2011 4:44:08 PM PST
The national donor registry is considering changing its rules for prioritizing kidney recipients.

The plan calls for a system where the young would get priority. This would not affect directed donations.

Opponents of the proposal are voicing concerns.

At the Davita Woodlawn dialysis clinic on Chicago's South Side, beds are full of patients getting their kidneys cleaned mechanically because their own organs aren't functioning the way they should.

Angela Garrett, 25, has been waiting for a donated kidney since 2003. Even though the new proposals might favor her getting a kidney faster, she says the new rules would make age discrimination a reality for her fellow patients -- an outcome that's more unfair than any perceived shortcomings of the current system.

"They shouldn't favor young adults. I think they should favor older people, too, because there's a lot of older people I speak to. They feel like they are on their last rope," Garrett told ABC7.

Garrett gets dialysis three days a week for at least three hours every time. It's a life in shackles she says that can easily be changed.

"I would like everyone to have awareness about organ donation because it's a very important thing," said Garrett.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says there are over 110,000 people waiting for an organ in the U.S., with 5,000 waiting for a kidney, the most sought-after organ.

In 2010, there were 15,429 kidney transplants; 650 took place in Illinois.

One Chicago-area medical ethicist says with kidneys in such high demand, the problem is distribution of available organs. The average waiting time for a kidney in Chicago is six years. In New York City it's 10 years, and in places such as Wyoming recipients wait about six months.

"As they have reorganized the allocation process, it will mean that people over the age of 50 will have the hard time in getting the best organs," said Dr. Lainie Ross, University of Chicago.

The national organ donation board, United Network for Organ Sharing known as UNOS, will accept public comments on its proposed changes and come up with a new policy by June of next year.

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