Our Nation’s OPOs are Strong: AOPO President Calls on CMS to Safeguard Organ Donation System

Hi, I’m Colleen McCarthy, President of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, or AOPO. I’m here to discuss a pressing issue that could impact the lives of thousands of Americans awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, introduced a Final Rule that could close nearly half of our nation’s OPOs in 2026, and we are heading down this road without a plan for what comes next.

OPOs are the backbone of our nation’s organ donation and transplantation system. They’re responsible for authorizing, recovering, and delivering lifesaving organs to patients in need.

In 2023 alone, OPOs recovered over 43,000 organs from deceased donors, continuing a 13-year streak of growth. This achievement is a testament to the passion and dedication of thousands of irreplaceable OPO professionals who work to save lives every day.

Our nation’s OPOs are strong, but it may not be enough to ward off the threat of being shut down. The Final Rule evaluates OPOs on factors outside of their control, like the rate of transplant.

While OPOs break records, it’s not always guaranteed that the lifesaving organs they recover are transplanted. Last year, 28% of kidneys recovered by OPOs — over 8,500 organs — were ultimately not used. This waste leads to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of patients who placed their trust in our system and must be rectified.

AOPO is raising the alarm and calling on CMS to address these issues and deliver a plan to stabilize the organ donation and transplantation system.

Organ donation is a gift of life. It’s a promise we’ve made to donors, their families, and those waiting for a transplant. We must protect this promise and ensure this life-saving work will continue uninterrupted.

It’s not just about policy—it’s about saving lives. Together, we can ensure that this system, built on generosity and hope, remains strong for generations to come.

Colleen McCarthy
AOPO President
Vice President of Organ & Tissue Donation
Versiti Wisconsin

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