Organ donation changes could mean life or death for patients

(WMC-TV) - A new state law going into effect at the end of the year will force some changes in the way organ transplants take place here in the Mid-South  For some, these changes could be the difference between life and death.

Officials at Methodist University Hospital are so concerned they are now asking local ministers to talk to their congregations about this change in organ donation.

To date, nearly 8,000 patients received life saving organ transplants at Methodist University Hospital and LeBonheur Children's Hospital.

But now, those on a donor list for livers and kidneys could suffer because there are fewer organs to pick from.

"Last year, we performed 138 liver transplants and those transplants are immediate life saving for liver patients.  They only have one option of transplant or they'll die," says Dr. James Eason, Medical Director of the transplant institute at Methodist University Hospital.

Right now, Methodist uses two agencies to obtain organs: Mid-South Transplant Foundation here in Memphis and Tennessee Donor Services in Nashville.

Methodist University is seeking support of a waiver to use Tennessee Donor Services as the dominant agency, saying their pool of donors is much larger.

"It would give them access to a greater number of livers but what's not been said is that it will decrease their number of kidneys offered on the first right of refusal process," adds Mid-South Transplant Foundation Executive Director Kim Van Frank.

Methodist University officials say that is simply not true.

They say by continuing to limit themselves to the Mid-South Transplant foundation, there would be seventy-five percent fewer organs available because of a smaller donor base.

According to the Tennessee Transplant Society, in 2011, Tennessee Donor Services acquired 420 kidneys and 191 livers whereas the Mid-South Transplant Foundation acquired 101 kidneys and 57 livers.

Mid-South Transplant Foundation officials disagree with Methodist's waiver to use a larger donor service but says the bottom line is saving lives through organ donation.

"The most important thing every person can do is register themselves to be an organ and tissue donor. If everyone that could be a donor would sign up, we wouldn't be having these arguments," Van Frank adds.

You have until June 25 to chime in on this issue.

For more information on the Mid-South Transplant Foundation, click here.

For more information about Methodist Hospital's effort to favor the waiver, click here.

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