Legislation targets ‘mismanagement’ of nation’s organ donation system

NEW HARTFORD — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is applauding legislation that’s passed the House and Senate which aims to break up the monopoly that controls how donated organs are delivered — or not delivered — to people who desperately need transplants.

Grassley says one non-profit group, the United Network for Organ Sharing, has cornered the market since the 1980s, determining how hearts, lungs, livers and other vital organs are harvested and used.

“It just has led to mismanagement that over a period of the 40 years, it’s estimated about 200,000 people died because the organs didn’t get to them,” Grassley says, “because of the inefficiency and bureaucracy and monopolistic powers of the network.”

Under the bill, which President Biden is expected to sign, the federal Health Resources and Services Administration will step in and allow other non-profits and for-profit groups to bid on taking over parts of the system to break the monopoly.

“This legislation is to correct that from the standpoint of making sure that we don’t rely on just one organization,” Grassley says, “and that they’re held accountable, particularly where a whistleblower is pointing out mistakes.”

The ultimate goal, he says, is to get more donated organs equitably shared around the country and to see them delivered in a timely manner to potentially save thousands of lives.

“We found that organs just went unused because the transportation from one part of the country to wherever the patient was just didn’t work out,” he says, “and there’s no reason to let that happen.”

According to the Iowa Donor Network, there are more than 600 Iowans waiting for a transplant or tissue donation.