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Health Beat: Organ rationing: Who lives? Who dies?

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 11 2013 01:19:07 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 11 2013 04:36:47 PM CST

More than 119,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in the U.S.

NEW YORK -

More than 119,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. Only a small fraction of them will get the organs they need.

We've discovered it's not just how sick you are, but where you live that can determine whether you get a lifesaving organ.

Matthew Rosiello was born with biliary atresia, which causes bile to build up in the liver and damage the vital organ.

"So, basically I was dying and I didn’t even know," said Rosiello, who was on the transplant list near his home in New York City.

In some metropolitan areas, experts said the wait for an organ can be longer. Rosiello decided to multi-list and visited two other hospitals in Connecticut and Ohio.

He got his new liver in Cleveland, but multi-listing can take more time, money and support from family. It's one reason why some say the system needs to change.

In the United States, there are eleven regions for organ sharing.

"Do I believe that this is the best way to divide the country? No," said Dr. Lewis Teperman, director of transplantation and vice chairman of surgery of New York University, Langone Medical Center.

Rather than state borders, Teperman suggests concentric circles, meaning organs would be shared by a group of states or cities, organized by distance, time and population — giving more patients more options.

"I'm a prime example of how it can save people's lives," Rosiello explained.

On average, 18 people die in the U.S. each day waiting for an organ, but more donors can help prevent that. If you’re interested in becoming an organ donor, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services organ donor website.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary

DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Lewis Teperman about organ rationing