69 vs. 70: Prejudice against elderly organ donors can cost lives

Written by Kara Murez

A reporter for HealthDay

MONDAY, Nov. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The difference between 69 and 70 is, of course, only one year.

However, a new study shows that organizations that receive organs for transplant patients are less likely to choose organs from an older donor.

US organ procurement organizations and transplant centers were about 5% less likely to choose or accept an organ from 70-year-old donors than from those who died at age 69.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California, San Francisco, it’s called a left-digit bias, which unconsciously gives importance to the first digit of a number — like 7 out of 70 — and is linked to ageism.

While previous studies have found this bias when using donor kidneys, the researchers wondered if this would occur when other organs were included.

“Donated organs are a life-saving resource, but there are far more people on the waiting list than there are organs available,” said co-author Dr. Claire Jacobson, a resident in general surgery at University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor.

“We were interested in seeing how we could make small changes to optimize our current supply of deceased donor organs, both to serve patients on the waiting list and to honor the gift of life that these donors provide,” she said in a press release. university.

For the study, scientists used data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system. That the centers were 5% less likely to choose an organ from a 70-year-old suggests that about 1 in 18 donors would be rejected outright, Jacobson said.

“This demonstrated bias is not limited to a single transplant center, [organ procurement organization] or even a step in the transplant process, and is seen in different organ types,” Jacobson said. “In our role as stewards of these donated organs and for all patients awaiting transplants, interventions must be targeted at each step in the transplant process to overcome our biased thinking.”

The researchers found that the same left digit shift was not significant in organ selection when donors were 59 versus 60. Jacobson said other factors, such as weight, blood work and other health issues, may receive more attention. if the donors are younger.

The findings were recently published in American Journal of Surgery.

Additional information

Organdonor.gov has more about organ, eye and tissue donation.

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan News Release, November 16, 2022

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