Statement on Senate Finance Committee Hearing and Report

August 4, 2022

On August 3rd, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing and released a report entitled: “A System in Need of Repair: Addressing Organizational Failures in the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network”. We appreciate the Finance Committees’ interest in improving the organ donation and transplantation system to maximize the gift of life and save more lives on the transplant waiting list.

The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) shares the Committee’s goal of creating a more equitable and efficient system. The year 2021 marked the ninth consecutive year of increases in the number of organ transplants and we aim to continue this upward trend. To do so, organ procurement organizations (OPOs), donor hospitals, transplant centers, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, and federal agencies must collaborate to implement a cohesive and actionable plan for improvement.

The Senate Finance Committee shared that 70 people died due to failures in the donation and transplantation system. While even a single death is unacceptable, it is important to understand that these occurrences are extremely rare – representing .03% of the 231,180 organs transplanted over the indicated 7-year period. To eliminate all system errors, AOPO welcomes changes that improve the current system, hold all stakeholders accountable, and maintain a patient-centric focus at all times. AOPO supports the peer-review process as a valuable quality improvement tool to transfer knowledge and successful practices among donation and transplant professionals.

As mentioned in the report, steps must be taken to address operational challenges surrounding organ evaluation, recovery, allocation, and transportation. By advancing the technology, policies, and procedures in these areas, the number of organs accepted will increase and patient safety will improve. However, these steps alone will not solve the organ discard problem that Senate Finance Committee members and witnesses discussed.

AOPO encourages a robust system to trace the cause of every organ discard to better determine the reasons for organ declines by transplant centers and develop strategies to minimize organ waste and increase organ acceptance. With the discard rate trending upward this year, this is an urgent issue that all donation and transplant stakeholders must solve for all the patients on the waiting list.

AOPO encourages the Senate Finance Committee to align their recommendations with the proposals outlined in the recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report focused on establishing a more equitable system. The recommendations are aligned with AOPO’s goal to achieve 50,000 annual organ transplants in 2026 through expanding collaboration with stakeholders, reducing health inequities, increasing organ utilization, and driving innovation and research.

We appreciate the Committee’s attention to this vital work and stand ready to work with Congress and the Administration to pursue the day when every donation opportunity results in lives saved.