Donated organ takes unexpected journey

People in Ohio might assume that the system via which human organs are donated is well regulated with strong oversight to ensure patient safety. While that is a logical assumption given the extremely delicate and important nature of organ donation, a recent incident in the Pacific Northwest indicates this is not the case at all.

As explained by The Seattle Times, an organization called the United Network for Organ Sharing oversees safety standard enforcement at the 58 organ procurement organizations nationwide. Each of these OPOs is assigned to a particular geographical region giving it essentially a monopoly on organ donation for that area. There is some governmental oversight of the program by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but that is said to be quite light. 

Some organs are donated with the intention that they will be used in full organ transplants. Other organs are donated so that portions of their tissue may be essentially harvested and then used in a variety of procedures. This was the case with a heart that was sent via a passenger flight from Sacramento to Seattle. It was to be taken to a facility in the area so that the valves could be removed for future use.

Instead of being removed from the cargo area of the plane, the heart remained onboard as the plane took off en route to its next destination in Texas. After more than an hour in the air, the error was discovered and the plane was rerouted to deliver the heart back to Seattle.


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