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Board president statement about national organ transplantation activity on and after September 11

Published on: Friday, September 21, 2001

Richmond VA -- On behalf of the OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors, I wish to thank the entire transplant community and commend the efforts of U.S. transplant centers, organ procurement organizations and histocompatibility laboratories, as well as the UNOS Organ Center, for continuing to provide transplant services throughout the series of events that began Tuesday, Sept. 11.

The greatest impact on the transplant system occurred Sept. 11. A few hospitals accepting trauma patients from the affected areas were forced to interrupt transplant services for a few hours, and some scheduled living donor transplants were postponed due to concerns over blood supply. On a larger scale, the shutdown of all commercial air travel disrupted the ability to transport donated organs that, under normal circumstances, would have been sent to more distant hospitals for transplantation.

OPTN/UNOS members were advised on Sept. 11 to attempt to place organs according to established policy. However, if distant placement became unfeasible, to prevent organ wastage members were encouraged to use organs locally or regionally. At least 24 organs were successfully placed between 9 a.m. Sept. 11 and 12 p.m. Sept. 12.

On Sept. 12, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began allowing charter flights to transport organs for transplantation, among other lifesaving purposes. With the resumption of commercial air travel Sept. 14, several airlines immediately agreed to accept donated organs and other vital medical supplies. UNOS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have worked together to ensure that the FAA understands the need for efficient shipment of organs and the detailed, easily verifiable process that ensures that transported organs meet air security requirements.

Throughout this time of crisis for all Americans, those involved in all phases of the donation and transplantation process have shown compassion and commitment to saving and enhancing lives.