Lawmakers urge organ collection groups to tighten performance measures

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Improve performance measures or face tighter regulations, lawmakers warned organ procurement groups during a May 4 hearing, The Washington Post reports.

There are 57 organ procurement organizations — known as OPOs — in the U.S., each of which have a contract with the federal government and have oversight over a certain geographic region of the country. The groups are charged with reaching out to families of patients on life support in an effort to secure organs, and coordinate the transfer of the organs to hospitals where recipients await. 

While some perform well, many fail to secure an adequate amount of available organs in their region, with the recent hearing called to discuss whether reforms aimed at improving the groups' performance should take effect sooner. 

Former President Donald Trump's administration finalized reforms last November that aimed to collect an additional 5,600 organs yearly by evaluating the groups against objective measures. President Joe Biden's administration is now moving forward with the reforms, though they would not take effect until 2022, and no OPO would be able to lose a contract before 2026. 

The groups have long faced criticism for lack of transparency in their performance data because up until last year, OPOs were in charge of calculating and reporting their own data, and no group has ever lost its contract with the government, the Post reports. 

"The OPO industry is broken, which is to say that all too often it does not serve patients," Matthew Wadsworth, chief executive of Life Connection in Ohio, told lawmakers during the hearing. "OPOs are given blank checks and participation trophies while patients die." The OPO is one of six that announced during the hearing that it was withdrawing from its own trade group, the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, citing the association's lack of transparency and lobbying efforts against performance improvement reforms. 

There are currently 107,000 people on the waiting list, and 33 people die each day while waiting, the Post reports, adding that 39,035 organs from deceased donors were transplanted in 2020. In response, lawmakers urged the groups to increase the number of organs they procure and make progress on racial disparities among donors and recipients. 

To read the full Washington Post article, click here.

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