OPTN was established by NOTA in 1984 as a membership organization to manage the US deceased organ transplant system. Living donors weren’t part of the equation until 2006 when UNOS’ Executive Director Walter Graham asked the Secretary of Health to allow OPTN to develop policies on living donation as well.
OPTN is considered a Public Policy Organization, which means it’s financially supported by the taxpayers and is obligated to represent and look out for the public’s well-being.
CMS (Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) Final Rule 2000, aka CFR 42 Part 121, establishes the makeup of OPTN’s Board of Directors, aka the Executive Committee:
(i) Approximately 50 percent transplant surgeons or transplant physicians;
(ii) At least 25 percent transplant candidates, transplant recipients, organ donors and family members. These members should represent the diversity of the population of transplant candidates, transplant recipients, organ donors and family members served by the OPTN including, to the extent practicable, the minority and gender diversity of this population. These members shall not be employees of, or have a similar relationship with OPOs, transplant centers, voluntary health organizations, transplant coordinators, histocompatibility experts, or other non-physician transplant professionals; however, the Board may waive this requirement for not more than 50 percent of these members; (emphasis mine)
OPTN’s Board of Directors consists of 45 people, but 2 are non-voting representatives of the feds. Based on the above, 10.75 of the BoD members should be ‘representative of the population’ served by OPTN, and ‘shall not be employees or, or have a similar relationship with OPOs, transplant centers, etc’.
But according to the Executive Summary (aka Meeting Notes) of OPTN’s last Board of Directors latest get-together in St. Louis:
The Board approved a waiver of the requirement regarding employment in the transplant community for not more than 50% of the Board members (and nominees) representing transplant candidates, recipients, organ donors, and family members.
So, we (the public) gets a whole 5/6 people on a 43/45 member Board to represent our interests. A whole 5/6 people who aren’t influenced or paid for by the profit-driven transplant industry.
Wow will I sleep better tonight.
I’ve no doubt that OPTN and its ilk will claim they couldn’t find qualified people to serve on the Board who aren’t also connected to the transplant industry. To that I say bull-honky. I have personal knowledge of multiple people who have applied (more than once) to serve on OPTN committees and been ignored. They weren’t even given an acknowledgement of their application, let alone an explanation for why they weren’t considered ‘qualified’. This waiver is nothing but the transplant industry’s continued attempt to control the direction of the transplant system in this country, to skew its policies and decisions in its favor.
It’s time for CMS and HRSA to step up and make sure that doesn’t happen.