Organ Transplants: Allocation Policies Include Special Protections for Children

GAO-01-498 Published: Sep 28, 2001. Publicly Released: Nov 09, 2001.
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Pediatric patients in need of an organ transplant face a shortage of donated organs. The number of pediatric organ donors has remained relatively constant from 1991 to 2000, despite a drop in potential donors. The number of adult donors rose 45 percent during the same period, in large part because donor eligibility criteria have been expanded to include older donors and donors with diseases that have been prohibited in the past. Organ waiting lists for pediatric patients have more than doubled. Compared to adults, however, children account for a small number of transplant candidates. The degree to which pediatric organs are transplanted into adults varies by organ. Pediatric patients appear to be faring as well as or better than adult patients, both while on the waiting list and after transplantation. Allocation policies for kidneys, livers, and hearts provide several protections for children awaiting transplants. The priority a child receives takes into account differences between children and adults in the progression and treatment of end stage organ disease, with the policies differing for each organ.

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