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article imageHow Steve Jobs Received a Liver Transplant in Tennesse

By Cristina Quiñones     Jun 26, 2009 in Business
This past week, staff at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tennessee acknowledged that Steve Jobs underwent a liver transplant there about two months ago.
Now, many Americans are wondering how Jobs was lucky enough to receive a liver when there are currently 16,000 people on the national transplant waitlist. Some critics claim that Jobs was bumped to the front of the line merely because of his social status, yet there is no evidence to support this accusation. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which manages the national organ donor system under contract with the federal government, regularly audits transplant centers to prevent preferential treatment of high status patients. According to the UNOS guidelines, all patients are waitlisted according to the severity of their condition, with the sickest patients receiving treatment first.
Jobs went through the same process as all other patients within the UNOS system. He was given a battery of medical tests to determine his eligibility, registered with an organ procurement organization (OPO), and was put on a waitlist. What separates Jobs from the majority of waitlisted patients, however, is that he utilized a loophole to get his transplant faster.
OPOs work with UNOS to distribute organs throughout the country. When an organ becomes available, OPOs use the UNOS database to find a suitable match for the organ on their waiting list. Only extremely sick patients categorized as “status one” can receive organs from any region. All other patients must wait for one to become available within their own OPO.
Despite these regulations, there is no rule against registering with more than one OPO or with an out-of-state OPO with a shorter waiting list. While there is no evidence that Jobs registered with more than one OPO, he certainly went out of his way to find one with a short waiting list. The average waiting period of the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute is four months, well under the national average of one year.
Registrations with multiple or out-of-state OPOs is not an alternative for most Americans. Insurance agencies can choose which OPOs their customers can go to and often limit the number of OPOs that a patient can register with. There are also many Americans who have no medical insurance and do not have the means of registering with even one OPO.
Jobs’ billionaire status allowed him to travel the country in search of the shortest waiting list. Although what he did was legal, the fact remains that he “cut” in front of a Tennessee resident who most likely did not have the option of registering with another OPO. Jobs is not the first and will not be the last high status personality to exploit this loophole in the UNOS system. Instead of calling foul on Jobs, critics should look to Congress to change the legislation.
More about Steve Jobs, Apple inc, Liver, Transplant
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