More than 100,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. But just over half of them hope to receive an organ within five years.
Now, a congressional investigation is raising serious questions about whether nonprofit groups aimed at transplanting organs from deceased donors are doing enough.
According to a House subcommittee investigating the organ donation and transplant system, the groups, known as organ procurement organizations, or OPOs, are “failing” to secure many organs that need to be retrieved. can
“Seventeen to 20 people die on the waiting list every day because they can’t get an organ, and OPOs just aren’t able to recover enough organs and make sure they get to them. who need them,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthy, who chairs the House subcommittee.
In August, the Senate Committee on Finance said a 2.5-year investigation found that “from top to bottom, the U.S. transplant network is not working, putting American lives at risk.”
And in a letter sent to OPOs Thursday, the House subcommittee raised questions about whether data provided by OPOs may be “inaccurate and incomplete.”
“If you don’t have adequate data, you don’t know which organs are available and able to go to people who need them,” Krishnamurthy said.
Several OPOs told CBS News that their data is “accurate” and that they are committed to saving lives.
The United Network for Organ Sharing, UNOS, said its system is audited annually.
“The data clearly shows that year after year our transplant system is becoming more and more successful,” Dr. Matt Cooper of UNOS told CBS News in May when he was president of the board.
But not everyone in the system agrees.
Matt Wadsworth, president of Life Connection, an OPO in Ohio, said he believes many OPOs around the country are failing.
He became emotional during his interview with CBS News, breaking down in tears and taking a moment to compose himself.
He said that people are dying there.
In Wadsworth’s first two years at his organization, he doubled the number of organ donors in his area, which meant many more lives were saved. He told members of Congress at a House subcommittee hearing in 2021 that other OPOs must do better, and that OPOs are “completely inefficient and unaccountable.”
They are unaccountable, he said, because before this year, when the government changed the way OPOs were evaluated, some OPOs were able to improve their numbers.
By manipulating their data, the OPOs made it appear that “they were going over every opportunity, they were turning every potential patient into a successful organ donor.”
“And that’s just not true,” he said. “And those are the bad players. If you look at the data, those are the ones who underperform year after year.”
The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations said its members are doing well and that OPOs have increased the number of organ donors by 35 percent over the past five years. But he agreed that “improvement is essential” to advance patient care.
One of those patients is Laquaya Goldring, who has been waiting seven years for a kidney transplant to keep her alive.
For four hours a day, five days a week, she sits hooked to a machine for home dialysis – the only way to clean her blood while she waits.
“I only have one shot at a transplant, and until I get that call, my life depends on a machine,” he said. “A lot of dialysis patients like me are sitting there just thinking, ‘When are we going to call?'”
“I feel like the longer I wait, the closer I am to death,” he said.