The Human Thrift Store: An Introduction Into Organ Procurement and Donation

By John Talbot, WFU JD/MA in Bioethics Candidate ’21


The first successful organ transplant occurred in 1954, when one twenty-three-year-old male donated his kidney to his identical twin brother.[1]  Since this first successful transplant, advances in science have allowed more widespread access to transplants, a greater variety of organs capable of transplantation,  and better longevity and transport of the organs.[2]  Following the exponential growth in organ transplant capabilities since the 1950s, there was a clear need for a national regulatory structure to govern the procurement and distribution of all donated organs.  In an attempt to address this issue, transplant professionals created the Southeast Organ Procurement Foundation in 1968, which subsequently developed into a fairly crude computer-based network in 1977 for sharing matching information.[3]  Understanding the need for a more uniform matching system that could be used across the nation, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act in 1984.[4]  This Act created the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) which was required to be operated by a non-profit under a federal contract.[5] The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) was initially offered the contract in 1986, and continues to administer the OPTN to this day.[6]

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