Thanks To These New Transplant Rules, African Americans Will Have More Access To Kidneys
The policy is already transforming lives.
July 21, 2017 at 6:59 pm
Racial disparity seems to be everywhere, from education to wealth.
Some of the most tragic examples of the racial gap can be found within the healthcare industry.
Fortunately, in that arena at least, some good news has surfaced!
It is known that while black people are more likely to develop kidney disease and undergo dialysis, they are less likely to be able to obtain a lifesaving transplant.
Now, Jerry McCauley, an African American kidney disease specialist and director of the nephrology division at Thomas Jefferson University, has confirmed that this problem has been eliminated, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
African Americans on kidney donor waiting lists will now have more access to kidneys based on allocation policy improvements. Other minority groups will benefit from the improvement, as well.
“It’s been clear for many years that African Americans don’t get transplanted as often as everyone else,” McCauley said. “I’m happy to say that is no longer true.”
McCauley has the data to back it up as well!
According to 2016 UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) data, African Americans represented a third of those on the waiting list (31,830 people) and also represented just over a third of total transplant recipients (4,284).
What brought about the positive change?
A few things.
First, there has been an increased push to get black people signed up as organ donors. That push has been successful.
Why did specifically black people need to be organ donors?
Well, until recently, UNOS had very strict tissue-matching rules. It was previously believed that certain proteins had to match in the donor and the recipient for the organ transfer to be successful. The easiest way to match those proteins was to make sure that the organ donor and the recipient were of the same race. New science has shown, however, that proteins don't need to match as closely as was once thought, opening the door to interracial transplants.
As a result of this new knowledge, UNOS has loosened its transplant requirements.
Finally, new hepatitis C drugs have helped to increase the supply of healthy, transferable organs.
With the implementation of the new UNOS rules, McCauley believes black people will no longer have to see the need for a kidney as a death sentence.
41-year-old Jonathan Wade Leonard is one example. He was born with only one kidney, and an impaired one at that. He had previously suffered agonizing years limping along, making due with what he had, and never bothered to sign up on the waiting list, knowing full well just how long it was.
“My doctors were always, ‘You need a kidney. You need a kidney,’” he said. “They basically put more pressure on me. They said, ‘With the new rules, you’re going to be at the top of the waiting list. As soon as you get all your evaluations in, you’re going to be called.’ That’s pretty much what happened.”
In a triumphant four months after being placed on the waiting list, Leonard received a transplant. A couple months later, he inched his way back into a normal life. “I feel fine. And I have so much more freedom,” he said. “Now, I can work weekends if I want to — not because I have to make up for time lost to dialysis.”
Wonderful! Here’s hoping that many more like Leonard are able to secure effective kidney transplants, and go on to live enriching lives.