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Wicker, Hyde-Smith challenge new liver transplant policy

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) are challenging a new policy that could divert livers donated for transplant in Mississippi to other regions of the country.

Wicker and Hyde-Smith are among 22 senators who signed a bipartisan letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that questions actions by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) in developing a new national liver distribution policy.

The senators outlined their concerns that “the negative effects of this new policy could be most severe for rural, low-income populations.”

The new model would allow donated livers to be sent to organ recipients up to 500 miles away from a donor hospital before becoming available to local and in-state recipients, thus diverting livers toward larger metropolitan cities.  It effectively penalizes regions like the South and Midwest which have higher rates of donation than other regions in the United States.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center, which has the only liver transplant program in Mississippi, has excelled under the previous policy that based transplant candidate selection in relation to where the donors lived.