The Organization That Has Run America’s Organ Transplants for 32 Years Finally Has Competition

The body of a brain-dead potential organ donor lies covered on a bed at Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis.
The body of a brain-dead potential organ donor lies covered on a bed at Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis.
Photo: AP Images

For more than three decades, the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing has run America’s organ transplant system, matching organs with those who need them thanks to a contract with the United States government.

But critics have contended the UNOS, which raked in nearly $58 million in revenue in 2015, is inefficient and resistant to change, leaving people in need of organs on the transplant list for years. This year, the Washington Post reports, at least two groups are exploring a bid against UNOS—the first time the organization has faced a challenge in well over a decade.

There are a few fairly sizable obstacles, however. The US government released its solicitation for bids on March 30, giving challengers just 35 days to put together a plan for how to manage a network of more than 800 transplant programs. And bidders are required to have three years of experience managing transplant projects of similar complexity—criteria that’s hard to meet unless you’re UNOS.


Who winds up with the contract, though, could make a big impact for those on the organ transplant list. At present, there are 114,894 people on the transplant list, according to UNOS. An average of 22 people on the waiting lists die each day.

The shortage has led to a race to figure out how to effectively and efficiently grow replacement organs in a lab. Others have experimented with ways to incentivize more people to donate non-vital organs, like kidneys. But it’s possible that managing the existing transplant system more efficiently could also save a lot of lives.

[The Washington Post]

Senior Writer, Gizmodo.

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If our bodies are our own, then why are our organs not our own to either give away or to sell?

Imagine a system whereby people could contract to sell their organs upon their deaths, and their designees (e.g. families) could receive the proceeds. As it stands now, a giant industry, in which doctors, hospitals, and especially recipients benefit, exists to the financial exclusion of the donors.

The promise of a reward would encourage donors to sign up, and quality bonus clauses might even motivate people to live healthier lives. For the right price, some might even part with a redundant organ while alive, such as an eyeball or kidney. The latter happens all the time, now, except for free.