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Hispanic Health News

Kidney Transplant Changes Could Favor Younger Patients

Changes that would direct the best kidneys to younger healthier people instead of giving priority to patients who have been on the waiting list longest are being considered by U.S. organ transplant network officials.

The new guidelines would put more emphasis on matching recipients and organs based on factors such as age and health in order to maximize the number of years that a transplanted kidney would last.

“It’s an effort to get the most out of a scarce resource,” Kenneth Andreoni, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University, told the Washington Post. He chairs the committee that is reviewing the kidney donation system for the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Some experts worry that the changes could unfairly penalize middle-aged and elderly patients.

“The best kidneys are from young adults under age 35 years. Nobody over the age of 50 will ever see one of those,” Lainie Friedman Ross, a University of Chicago bioethicist and physician, told the Post. “There are a lot of people in their 50s and 60s who, with a properly functioning kidney, could have 20 or more years of life. We’re making it harder for them to get a kidney that will function for that length of time. It’s age discrimination.”

More than 87,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a kidney, but only 17,000 get kidneys each year. More than 4,600 die because they did not get a kidney in time.