In this day and age, pretty much everyone knows about organ transplants and their immense contribution towards saving and extending lives. Some may even have relatives who have undergone such procedures, or at the very least are aware of successful organ transplants through the media.

But despite being such an integral part of the process, the organ transplant waiting list still seems like one that many people don’t have a working knowledge of, one that is likely to stir up allegations of preferential treatment. After all, who gets to decide which person is supposed to receive a life-saving organ, and when? Luckily, if one takes the time to really understand how the waiting list works, you’ll see that it is actually a well-put-together system.

How Organ Allocation Works

In the US alone there are over 115,000 people currently waiting to receive life-saving organs and tissues. That number alone makes it impossible to ensure that everybody can receive what they need all at once, so the US Department of Health and Human Services has to prioritize patients in some way. The question has always been just how to go about doing so in a fair and transparent manner.

To that end, the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 sought to establish clear guidelines on how to select patients for transplantation. A national database is maintained and updated regularly that contains all the names of the patients who are currently waiting for organs. People get into this database only after being evaluated by a certified transplant specialist.

Contrary to public opinion, the database is not a waiting list per se. The list doesn’t work solely on a first-come, first-served rule that people would expect in such instances. Instead, people are grouped according to a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Medical Urgency – the closer a patient is to organ failure, the higher their priority is.
  • Blood and Tissue Type – transplant rejection is a real risk, so it’s important that doctors pay close attention to compatibility issues.
  • Time Spent on the Waiting List – while not a deciding factor in and of itself, patients do move up in priority as time passes.
  • Proximity to the Donor – organs have a limited window during which they are transplantable, so patients located in close proximity to a donor will always be preferable.

All these factors and more play a pivotal role in deciding who gets a transplant and in what order. Other factors such as a patient’s income or celebrity status do not play a part in determining the allocation of organs. That’s because the system is open and transparent, and any attempts to game it would be stifled before they could be brought to fruition.

As you can see, the waiting list is one whose sole purpose is to optimize the process of connecting donors with receivers and to facilitate the transplantation process. If you’re eager to learn more about organ donation, visit the Life Center website today and find out how you too can aid in this noble effort.