Every day, Americans are dying because of an inefficient organ donation system.
It might seem like there are not many points of policy agreement between the Trump and Obama White House, but organ donation reform is one.
Organ donation and transplantation has long been a bipartisan issue. The current system was championed by then-Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) in 1984. Immunosuppression, a therapy that helps organ recipients’ bodies accept donated organs, had recently taken off, and with that, organ transplantation became possible for many more people. Hatch and Gore hoped to encourage organ donation by ensuring that the organizations on the frontlines of organ donation – called organ procurement organizations (OPOs) – had the resources to recover organs from potential donors.
The law gave OPOs monopolies over their designated service areas and made their expenses 100 percent financial pass through – largely to the taxpayer. This broad latitude of structure was meant to match the generosity of would-be donors across the country. The law also included a ban on compensating organ donors to protect donors from exploitation.
Fast forward 35 years and both the deceased and living donation systems have been hobbled by good intentions and a shocking lack of oversight.
For the deceased donation system, research shows that tens of thousands of organ donations go unrecovered every year. Even so, not a single OPO has lost its lucrative government contract in decades.