People in Washington State who may themselves be in need of an organ transplant or who have loved ones waiting for new organs know all too well the importance of the human life. For many people on the wait list for a new organ, the receipt of such organ may literally be the difference between life and death. It would only stand to reason, then, that the process by which these organs are identified and transported be error-free as time matters greatly in many of these situations.
Sadly, a report by The Seattle Times highlights the fact that this process is anything but error-free and one recent incident that illustrates this happened in Seattle just a few weeks ago. A heart was en route to Seattle from Sacramento and actually made it to Seattle. However, instead of being taken off the plane and delivered to the appropriate organization, the heart took off from SeaTac Airport and began its journey to Dallas.
After 90 minutes in the air, the plane carrying the heart turned around and brought the heart back to Seattle. Fortunately, this case did not result in direct injury to a patient but this type of mistake could be a factor in patient harm.
There are 58 organ procurement organizations in the U.S., all of which are overseen by the United Network for Organ Sharing. Each OPO has a complete monopoly in its regional territory. Selling an organ is illegal but selling tissue such as a heart valve or bone is not illegal. After the recent incident, at least one senator is calling for increased oversight of the transplant system.