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Organ Transplant Rules Are Tightened

June 28, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Donated organs may no longer be given to patients who are not on a computer list of matches, the nation's transplant network said Friday, ending a long-standing informal practice after the death of a 17-year-old girl who received organs of the wrong blood type.

The change came after an investigation into the case of Jesica Santillan, who died in February after a botched heart-lung transplant.

The United Network for Organ Sharing concluded that none of the organizations involved in her transplant violated the network's policies. The policies require that blood types be confirmed before transplants but do not specify who is responsible.

"We were all sort of shocked because we did go into it expecting, surely, policy must have been violated," said Dr. Shirley Schlessinger, medical director for the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency and an investigative panel member.

The network agreed Friday to a set of tougher, more detailed policies that would make clear who is responsible for double-checking that blood types match. Its new rules require that blood type be verified by at least four staff members, two at the organ recovery agency and two at the transplant hospital. Also, transplant programs must check blood type when the organ arrives and compare it directly with the potential recipient's blood type.

The network, which runs the matching system under a contract with the federal government, also agreed to require that all patients receiving organs are listed on the computerized match. In 2002, there were 256 transplants performed for patients not on the lists generated for those donor organs, Schlessinger said.

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