NY Times: “Who Deserves a Lifesaving Organ?”

NY Times: “Who Deserves a Lifesaving Organ?”

Yesterday’s post discussed policy efforts to help with equitable access for transplantation. This essay explores some of the same issues.

A few excerpts:

  • What makes someone a “good” transplant candidate? Maybe it is inevitable that doctors’ biases creep in when we must make fraught decisions about a scarce resource….
  • A transplant program is also beholden to its metrics. If the one-year survival of transplant recipients is lower than expected or if transplant failure is higher than expected, a program could be put on probation or lose its certification entirely…
  • Social-support requirements vary based on the intensity of the surgery and the length of the required rehabilitation. But in general, a patient is expected to have one to three people who can commit to helping in recovery — driving to appointments, managing medications or responding to overnight emergencies…
  • So much of transplant decision-making is about narrative, which is one reason misconceptions can take hold when patients do not speak English as their primary language. Hispanic patients are about half as likely as their white peers to receive kidney donations from family or friends— a gap that Dr. Juan Carlos Caicedo, an adult and pediatric transplant surgeon who directs the Hispanic Transplant Program at Northwestern Medicine, is working to close. “People will argue that these are not good patients because they don’t follow recommendations, but they are dead wrong,” he told me. “They are great patients, as long as they understand you.”..
  • Change is happening. At my hospital, our lung transplant team is working to identify recipients from underserved communities who can become “ambassadors” to educate others and build trust…
  • Perhaps most important, transplant teams are openly discussing and challenging their assumptions about who makes a “good” transplant candidate. And in doing so, more lives may be saved.
Thanks to Jennifer for this picture