WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) have announced bipartisan legislation to help prevent lifesaving organs from getting lost in transport. The Lost Opportunities to Supply Transplantable Organs (LOST Organs) Act would require the U.S. organ donation system, managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), to better track organs and publicly report when logistics errors result in a lost, damaged or delayed organ.
A recent investigation, following a human heart being left behind on a Southwest Airlines flight, found that a “startling number of lifesaving organs are lost or delayed while being shipped on commercial flights, the delays often render them unusable.”
“While thousands of lives in America are saved through transplants annually, we must do a better job for patients and their families to ensure organs are delivered in a timely and safe manner,” said Senator Cardin. “The LOST Organs Act will reform the U.S. organ transplant system to improve its transportation tracking systems to ensure patients receive their organ transplants in a timely fashion.”
“Every day organ donations save the lives of thousands of men and women across our country. But when an organ is held up or lost in transit, the consequences are dire. Ensuring that organs are properly transported requires immediate attention, and this legislation would provide necessary transparency and oversight on this issue. I urge Congress to take up this legislation without delay,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“We are thrilled that Senators Cardin and Van Hollen continue to put the interests of patients first in their work for Marylanders. As a transplant system, we have to be as clear-eyed about our faults as we are about our successes. What the Maryland Senators have proposed means that we’ll have a complete accounting of when we have succeeded, and exactly how we have failed–and researchers at Hopkins will be working on how we can get better,” said Dr. Dorry Segev, the Marjory K. and Thomas Pozefsky Professor of Surgery and Epidemiology and Associate Vice Chair of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Segev is the founder and director of the Epidemiology Research Group in Organ Transplantation, the largest and most prolific group of its kind in the world.
“One lost organ is one too many,” said Senator Young. “With more than 112,000 Americans on a transplant waitlist, including nearly 1,300 Hoosiers, we must ensure lifesaving organs are getting to the patients who need them. The LOST Organs Act will create greater transparency and accountability so that these critical organs aren’t getting lost, damaged, or delayed in transit.”
Roughly seven percent of shipments handled by UNOS from July 2014 to November 2019 encountered transportation problems according to data obtained by Kaiser Health News and Reveal. “Organs are typically tracked with a primitive system of phone calls and paper manifests, with no GPS or other electronic tracking required,” the investigation found. The report also states that UNOS didn’t begin formally tracking transportation errors until 2016.
The LOST Organs Act would require UNOS to track and publicly report on the status of all organs in transport. In the event that an organ is lost, damaged, or delayed, an open and transparent process would be established to determine the cause, corrective action, and recommendations to prevent it from happening again.