Dr. Kenneth Andreoni, chairman of the United Network for Organ Sharing Kidney Transplantation Committee, has been working to develop a better way to distribute kidneys since 2004.
"The current allocation system went in decades ago," Andreoni said. "It was based on good science, but it was a different time."
The system was built to balance utility with fairness.
But in the 1980s and 1990s, things began to change. Better anti-rejection drugs helped a recipient accept a kidney even if they weren't a perfect match. Before long, the allocation system that was supposed to balance utility - the likelihood of a successful transplant - with fairness - time on the waiting list - was out of whack.
Dr. David Mulligan has been performing transplants for 15 years and knows as well as anybody the miracle of a donated kidney.
That's why, he said, he believes changes to the system are necessary.
The chairman of the division of transplant surgery at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, Mulligan thinks all patients will be better served - not just the younger ones who would get better organs.
Older patients could benefit too, he said. If the system acknowledges that older people don't need the organs to last as long, the criteria for acceptable kidneys could be broadened. That would alleviate the shortage.
Right now, that shortage is critical. As of October, 82,385 people were on the waiting list for a kidney in the country. Of those, 1,363 were in Arizona.
The Arizona Republic by John Faherty, 11/08/09