• Doctors say new rules for liver transplants will cost Georgians their lives

    By: Maureen Sheeran

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - On April 30, the system for distributing livers for transplants will move toward a “sickest first” model. The new protocol would increase the distance that donor organs travel. Livers would travel more than 500 miles if a recipient that far away demonstrated the greatest need.

    The change will cost Georgians their lives, according to the chief scientific officer at Piedmont Transplant Institute.

    Dr. Raymond Rubin said the new rules will send livers from rural and low-income areas to more and more cities, where larger populations and numerous transplant centers create relentless demand.

    [RELATED: Nearly 1 in 5 waiting for liver transplant won’t get it – but that could change]

    "Our organs, instead of going to our patients locally, are going to go up I-95," said Rubin. 

    According to Rubin, there is currently a good balance between donation and the need for organs in Georgia. Rubin called it one of the more favorable states in the country -- for now. 

    "Unfortunately, all that is going to change come April 30," said Rubin.

    According to Rubin, patients in states that aren't as effective at organ procurement will benefit from Georgia donors, but Georgians in need of livers won't get the same benefit. 

    "It really is terrible for our patients and for our state, because our state is good at trying to recruit liver donors," the doctor said. 

    The United Network for Organ Sharing is standing by the new policy.

    "Modeling shows that more children will get liver transplants and fewer patients will die waiting under the new policy. The sickest patients will get offers first, so the sickest Atlanta patients could get livers from as far away as New Orleans, Chicago, Cleveland or Pittsburgh," said a UNOS spokesperson in a statement.

    Here's how Rubin is working to increase the number of available livers for his patients.

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