New US liver transplant policy shifts organ distribution to where demand is highest

A U.S. district judge is allowing a new liver transplant policy that will increase the availability of organs for people in metropolitan areas where demand is highest, according to The Washington Post.

The new policy changes the way livers are distributed in the U.S., the Post reported. Previously, hospitals performing transplants would get first pick of organs donated in their area. Per the new policy, livers will first be offered to the most needy patients up to 500 nautical miles away from the donor.

A group of hospitals and patients on the liver transplant list sued HHS last April to prevent implementation of the policy, and U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg in Atlanta blocked it temporarily.

But on Jan. 16, Judge Totenberg ruled that the government and the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit running the U.S. transplant system, gave the plaintiffs "due process and an opportunity to have their views heard," according to the Post.

She declined to permanently block the new policy.

The plaintiffs say that the policy would reduce the availability of livers in the areas where they are located, while livers would be redirected to cities where demand and insurance payments are high.

Supporters of the policy, however, say that the previous system resulted in arbitrary disparity in distribution of organs across the country.

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