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Attacks on organ procurement are unfair

At New Mexico Donor Services, there is nothing more sacred than being good stewards of the gift of organ donation.

When a donor entrusts us with a gift of a lifesaving organ, it is an honor to serve as a bridge that connects the organ with a transplant center and ultimately the transplant recipient, and to do so in an ethically and financially responsible manner.

Marissa Padilla’s suggestion in her Nov. 6 opinion column, “Modern organ donation system could save more NM lives,” that we operate at a substandard level rife with accountability issues is extraordinarily misleading, offensive and, frankly, dangerous to the system we and other organ procurement organizations work so hard to help make the best in the world.

Padilla and I can agree that we need a new metric to evaluate performance, however the proposed metric is deeply flawed and has no way of evaluating performance. It is tragic that politics and flawed logic has infiltrated such an important issue. I would like to point out a couple of facts in response.

First, the U.S. has the highest performing organ recovery and transplants in the world. Second our country has seen year-on-year increases in donation and transplants over the past 10 years. Padilla suggests that the system must be broken if an organ procurement organization has not been decertified for a long time and champions a proposed rule that would use flawed data to decertify 75% of the country’s organ procurement organizations with thousands of lives in the balance. We can and must do better than this.

We’re only one part of a complex system that Padilla and other advocates grossly oversimplify. She accuses organ procurement organizations of letting organs go to waste. Organ procurement organizations work tirelessly to make organs available for transplant, so why would we flippantly discard them? We don’t. Discarded organs have as much, if not more, to do with transplant centers unwillingness to accept them.

In recent weeks New Mexico Donor Services recovered six kidneys from three donors that multiple centers representing over 70,000 recipients were unwilling to transplant. It is the organ procurement organizations’ responsibility to facilitate the donation process providing opportunities for transplantation, but organ procurement organizations should not be punished if transplant centers refuse organs that could be utilized.

New Mexico Donor Services is not opposed to reform, as Padilla indicates. There’s always room to get better. But let us stop the unfair attacks on organ procurement organizations and instead bring all stakeholders together to create reform that improves the system for all.

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