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Update on Kidney Exchanges

Al Roth, a Harvard economics professor who has been a leader in getting kidney exchanges established, forwarded this press release to me:


U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood, Tenth District, Georgia

For immediate release: January 29, 2007

Norwood/Inslee Introduce Paired Kidney Donation Bill in House

(Washington, DC) – Patients waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant could have that wait significantly shortened, thanks to bipartisan transplant reform legislation introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Charlie Norwood, DDS (R-GA) and Jay Inslee (D-WA). U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Kit Bond (R-MO) introduced matching legislation in the Senate.

The Living Kidney Organ Donation Clarification Act insures that federal laws intended to prevent the sale of organs by living donors do not inadvertently prohibit “paired” donations.

Currently, patients needing kidney transplants must either receive an organ from a family member or friend willing to serve as a living donor, or enroll in a waiting list for organs from deceased donors maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing. Donated organs from either source must be tissue-compatible with the recipient.

The Norwood-Inslee bill affects a targeted group of donors and recipients. An estimated 6,000 family members and friends in the United States have offered to donate a kidney to a loved one, but are blocked because they are tissue-incompatible.

By cross-matching these incompatible donor-recipient pairs, surgeons can arrange transplantation of a compatible donated organ for each. However, because the 1984 National Organ Transplantation Act prohibits donating or receiving an organ for any form of “valuable compensation”, many hospitals and physicians will not perform paired donations for fear of violating federal law.

“This legislation provides absolute clarity that paired kidney donations in no way conflict with the ban on organ donation compensation,” says Norwood, himself a lung transplant recipient. “In return, we will see lives saved by an overall increased supply of donated organs. That benefits all patients on the waiting list.”

The Norwood-Inslee Bill is supported by the National Kidney Fund, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the American Society of Transplantation, the Association of Organ Procurement, and others.

Jeffrey Crippin, M.D., President of the American Society of Transplantation, applauded the leadership of Norwood and Inslee in tackling the issue. “In the past decade, the most significant increase in organ donation has come from living donors, almost all of whom are kidney donors. The AST commends Congressmen Norwood and Inslee for their ongoing commitment to increase organ donation and strengthen the nation’s ability to deliver the gift-of-life to the more the 95,000 individuals currently awaiting a life saving donor organ.”