Residents of the Midwest may be living up to their reputation of being kindhearted.
At least according to researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Kansas Hospital, the Midwest outpaces the rest of the nation in organ donor rates.
The Heartland account for the highest donor consent rates in the nation, while New York state has the lowest, they conclude in a study published in the newest issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.
The study looked at more than 52,500 people who died between 2008 and 2013. They were considered eligible for organ donation, meaning they were brain dead, aged 70 or younger and were free of serious medical conditions.
White patients under the age of 55 were most likely to donate their organs. Blacks, Hispanics and Asians had lower consent rates. However, the rates along ethnic backgrounds varied “considerably” throughout the U.S.
Authors of the study note that “if consent rates over five and a half years in the geographic areas with the lowest consent rates were to increase to the current level of the geographic area with the median level of donors identified, there could potentially be 773 more donors available. That pool could yield nearly 2,700 lifesaving kidney, liver, lung, heart, pancreas, and/or intestine transplants.”
Last summer, geographic disparity in access to donated livers in the U.S. led the United Network for Organ Sharing, a not-for-profit contractor that oversees the nation's organ transplant system, to propose changes to the way transplants are prioritized.
The redesign would use two statistical tools not commonly applied in healthcare. One is borrowed from the methods used to establish and track election districts and school districts, while the other is based on optimization statistics used by the airline industry to increase travel efficiency
The UNOS proposal immediately sparked concern among some liver transplant providers who said the change could increase how long organs must travel and would negatively affect regions with higher rates of donations.