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UNOS continues to review transplant error

Published on: Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Richmond, Va. -- The Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN), operated by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), continues to review the circumstances of a recent transplant for a patient whose blood type was incompatible with the donor while also taking actions intended to prevent such errors from recurring.

"The entire transplant community is deeply touched by this recent tragedy.  The OPTN, as a steward of donated organs, plays an important role in conveying the gift of life to transplant recipients, and we are committed to managing the transplant system with the highest of standards," said OPTN/UNOS Vice President Russell Wiesner, M.D., who chairs the OPTN/UNOS Membership and Professional Standards Committee.

"The national transplant system relies on public trust," he added.  "We want those awaiting transplants, and the public at large, to know that we are working with the Federal government to do what is necessary to ensure that the proper policies and safeguards are in place so that the transplant system effectively meets the needs of transplant recipients. Equally important, we have an obligation to maintain the trust of those who are considering making the decision to be organ donors, so that they and their loved ones feel confident about that important decision," he said.

The OPTN/UNOS Membership and Professional Standards Committee is currently reviewing the mismatched transplant and gathering facts from all members involved in the case.  The committee also has recommended that certain steps be taken immediately to prevent future recurrences.  It is calling for all organ procurement organizations to ensure that their staff members are thoroughly familiar with the most current information regarding existing network policies and procedures designed to ensure proper allocation of organs. Specifically, the committee requested that information be disseminated immediately regarding OPTN policies that require organs be allocated only for patients who are included on the official network "match run." The committee also required that more detailed information be disseminated on the use of the UNOS computer system to facilitate running a donor/patient match.

Upon completion of its review, the committee will present its final recommendations to the OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors.  In addition, a special subcommittee is being formed to conduct an in-depth review of OPTN policies and procedures to determine whether additional safeguards need to be implemented to protect against potential errors in the future.

UNOS manages the nation's organ transplant system under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Under that contract, UNOS brings together medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy.