Organ allocation

Organ allocation refers to the process of allotting available organs to potential recipients on the basis of certain criteria. If regarding medical compatibility there are several matches for any given organ, the German Transplant Act requires it to be allocated "according to the prospects of success and urgency" of organ transplantation (§ 12 TPG, unofficial translation). Furthermore, the principle of equality before the law stated in the German Grundgesetz ("Basic Law") has to be heeded. The legislator has appointed the Federal Medical Association with concretising these criteria. The critical discussion of allocation criteria has been rekindled by the breaches of directives for the allocation of liver grafts which became known in Germany in 2012. Thus, the allocation of liver transplants is currently being regulated by the so-called MELD score (MELD stands for "Model for End-stage Liver Disease"). This score provides a measure of a patient’s risk of dying of liver failure were he not to receive a transplant. It is calculated on the basis of three laboratory values: bilirubin, creatinine and blood coagulation time. However, some find fault in the fact that the MELD score represents a purely urgency-based criterion. Consequently, patients with a short life expectancy can receive a liver. An alternative that is mainly being discussed in the United States is the success criterion LYFT. LYFT stands for "Life Years after Transplantation" and estimates the life expectancy of patients after a successful liver transplantation. The LYFT criterion, however, is also controversial, for it discriminates against elders and severely ill persons. Both the empirical question whether the available scores offer a proper evaluation of an organ transplantation’s prospects of success and urgency, and the normative question if they actually provide for a fair system of organ allocation are being debated. Experts consider the establishment of a nation-wide transplant register as an important prerequisite for the development of a fair allocation process. A law for the creation of such a German transplant register is entered into force on 1. November 2016.

Frei, U. (2013): Organverteilung für die Transplantation: Was ist gerecht? (Organ distribution for transplantation: what is fair?). In: Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 138 (38), 1902–1904. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1343299. (German)

German Federal Ministry of Health (2016): Press release of July 08, 2016: German Bundestag passes the Act on the Establishment of a nation transplant register. Online Version (German)

Regulation on implementation of a national transplant register and revision of further regulations (11.10.2016). In: BGBl I 48, 2233 Online Version (German)

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