69 vs. 70: Bias against older organ donors can cost lives

Written by Cara Murez

Health Day reporter

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

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

US organ harvesting organizations and transplant centers were about 5% less likely to select or accept organs from donors aged 70 than from those who died at age 69.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California, San Francisco, this is called a left-digit bias, which unconsciously places a value on the first digit of a number — such as 7 to 70 — and is related to age.

While previous research has shown this bias in the use of donor kidneys, the researchers wondered if this would occur if other organs were involved.

“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. Clare Jacobson, a general surgery resident at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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

For the study, the researchers used data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, a non-profit organization that manages the country’s organ transplant system. The fact that centers were 5% less likely to choose an organ from a 70-year-old suggests that about 1 in 18 donors are rejected outright, Jacobson said.

“This proven bias is not limited to a single transplant center, [organ procurement organization] or even participate in the transplantation process, and it can be seen in multiple organ types,” Jacobson said. “As stewards of gifted organs and for all transplant patients, interventions must target each step of the transplant process to overcome our preconceived notions.”

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

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The results were recently published in the American Journal of Surgery.

More information

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

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, press release, November 16, 2022.

Source: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20221121/69-vs-70-bias-against-older-organ-donors-may-be-costing-lives?src=RSS_PUBLIC