Get reimbursed for COVID-19 testing and treatment of uninsured individuals.     Learn more »

White House Hosts Organ Summit

On June 13, the White House held an Organ Summit to announce new actions to improve outcomes for individuals waiting for organ transplants and improve support for living donors.

Sign up to be an organ donor at today!

HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae
HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae told public and private officials at the White House Organ Summit
on June 13 that the agency's Healthcare Systems Bureau is expanding efforts
through its Donor Assistance Center with the University of Michigan.

The Pentagon will invest $160 million on research into robotics, cell replacement and repair, and other cutting-edge science to shorten waiting times for Americans in need of transplants, officials said Monday -- while a consortium of companies embark on an unprecedented social media campaign to drum up more donors.

More than 12 organizations including Facebook, ORGANIZE, Tinder, and Twitter are developing new tools and public advocacy campaigns to increase the options and ease of registering to be an organ donor, with a goal of achieving 1 million new registrations and social declarations by the autumn of 2016.

The new registry will make it possible for the nation's 150 million unregistered potential donors to log a legal declaration on-line simply by posting #OrganDonor or #OrganDonation to their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account. The registry is already in use in six states.

More than nine out of 10 Americans say in surveys that they support organ donation, but millions never register, leaving family members and medical staffs to resolve the emotional issue of whether to donate, often in the midst of a medical crisis. Each day, scores of organs are discarded --  including 3,000 viable kidneys annually, according to CMS -- at a time when 120,000 men, women and children are in urgent need.

Daily, an average of 22 people die on waiting lists.

Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu, USPHS (ret.)
Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu, USPHS (ret.)

Former Acting U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Ken Moritsugu, who lost both his wife and 20-year-old daughter in separate auto accidents, gave a moving testimonial about his experience in 1996 trying to glean his daughter's wishes. His wife had made a declaration, but not so his daughter Vikki Lianne.

"Frankly, we were conflicted, because we didn't know what Vikki would have wanted," Moritsugu said. Only later did he learn from his older daughter that she had discussed it with her sister years earlier, and she wanted her organs donated, as her mother had done. In all, a dozen people from Tampa, Fla. to Upstate New York received his wife and daughter's organs and corneas.

The decision to donate also affects the fiscal health of the nation, said Stanford  University economist and Nobel laureate Alvin Roth, noting that every kidney transplant saves the health care system about $50,000 per year on dialysis.

Alvin Roth, economist
Alvin Roth, economist

"Most people waiting for transplants are waiting for kidneys," Roth said. "Each year in the U.S., we transplant over 5,000 living donor kidneys, along with over 11,000 deceased donor kidneys ... kidney transplantation is both the best treatment for kidney failure, giving recipients many more years of life, and also the cheapest treatment."

Said HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae: "As many of you also know, we are not remotely reaching the need, and that need is increasing."

In yet another step to answer the President's call to increase donations, Macrae said that the University of Michigan Living Donor Assistance Center -- funded by HRSA through 2019 at up to $3.5 million per year -- is looking to increase its efforts. Launched in 2007, the program reimburses travel, room and board costs up to $6,000 for living donors who can't afford to get to a transplant center.

Ninety percent of applicants get help and more than 3,300 donors have received "controlled value cards," which are used like credit cards to pay for approved expenses. The program is particularly important in increasing minority donors.

"We will be focused on three key areas," Macrae said: Providing "trustworthy educational resources" for potential living donors; identifying financial barriers and other impediments to living donation; developing viable "ethical solutions" to meet those barriers; and "making sure living donors have long-term follow-up and access to care."

"These donations not only save lives," Macrae said, "they actually change lives for the better."

Watch the Organ Summit.

Read "Saving Lives and Giving Hope by Reducing the Organ Waiting List" and "Email from Alonzo Mourning: How Organ Donation Saved My Life" on the White House blog.

Sign up as an organ donor at
Sign up to be an organ donor.

Date Last Reviewed:  April 2017