May 13, 2014

Symposium will explore issues in organ donation

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two people who were involved last year in what became a national debate on organ transplants and children will be part of a discussion later this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

“From Critical Shortage to Critical Mass: Addressing the Lack of Organ Donations” will examine possible ways to increase the number of organ donations and create a fair and sensible system that makes the best use of available organs.  The 16th annual SIH/SIU Health Policy Institute is Friday, May 16, in the Hiram H. Lesar Building at the SIU School of Law.  There is also an option to attend via teleconference at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield or the Illinois State Bar Association’s regional office in Chicago. 

Among the presenters is attorney Stephen G. Harvey, a Philadelphia attorney who represented the family of Sarah Murnaghan, a Pennsylvania child whose need for a double-lung transplant because of cystic fibrosis prompted changes in lung transplant rules for children.  Another presenter, Dr. Stuart Sweet, is director of the pediatric lung transplant program at Washington University in St. Louis and chairs the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network’s policy oversight committee.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to attend any of the sessions.  To schedule a specific presenter for interview, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach at 618/453-8700.

Murnaghan’s case included a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and resulted in an exemption allowing exceptions for patients younger than 12 years old to be considered for adult lungs.  

W. Eugene Basanta, law professor and Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law, said the topic is timely.  For example, more than 99,000 people in the United States are waiting for a kidney transplant, with a new person added to the list every 20 minutes.  Yet in 2013, only about 14,000 kidney transplants were performed and more than 3,300 people died waiting for a kidney, he said. 

Harvey will discuss Murnaghan’s case, Basanta said.  Sweet will talk about what has happened since the decision in terms of revisiting and redesigning the allocation system. 

Other presenters include Dean Kappel, president and CEO of Mid-America Transplant Services; Randy Beard, an economics professor at Auburn University, who is the author of numerous articles on the economics of health care and the organ shortage; and Dr. Andrew Cameron, an associate professor of surgery and director of the liver transplant program at John Hopkins Hospital. 

More information on the program is available at

“This is an important topic and really deserves some attention and we’ve been fortunate to get some first-rate speakers,” Basanta said.  Beard, for example, will discuss the potential for creating regulated markets for organs as a potential way to increase supply while Cameron will examine the potential for increasing organ donations through the use of social media such as Facebook. 

Basanta said a number of misunderstandings about organ donations persist.  These include the belief that they, or their families will have to pay if they donate organs. Some families have concerns their loved one’s body will be too damaged from organ donation when a person dies, he said. 

The need for transplants is outpacing the supply, Basanta said. 

“We just are unable to get enough organs to meet all the demand. Transplantation science is advancing, so we are able to transplant many more organs and parts of the body than we were five, 10, 20 years ago,” Basanta said. 

The SIU School of Medicine recently launched the first clinical hand transplant program in Illinois, and the 11th in the nation, for patients who suffered from an amputation of their upper extremity. 

Registration for the institute ranges from $40 to $125, with up to five hours of continuing legal and medical education credits available.  Pre-registration is preferred but on-site registration is available the day of the program.  Online registration is available at, calling 618/536-7751 or by fax at 618/453-5680. Illinois health care providers who have participated in any of Coventry’s PPO networks, including networks managed by First Health Group Corp., CC Managed Care, Inc., and Healthcare Compare Corp., can register for free. 

Event sponsors also include Southern Illinois Healthcare, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the Illinois State Bar Association, Illinois State Medical Society and the Chicago Medical Society.