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Difficulties in Qualifying for Organ Transplants in Communities of Color

WHEREAS, Black people in need of a new heart are less likely than their white peers to get a transplant, and when they do, they are more likely to die afterward, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association; Black patients have a 10% lower likelihood of transplantation. Researchers also found that Black patients had a 14% higher risk of post-transplant death during the 10-year follow-up period compared to white patients; and

WHEREAS, Black patients are about four times as likely to have kidney failure as white Americans, and Black patients make up more than 35 percent of people on dialysis but are just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Black patients are also less likely to get on the waitlist for a kidney transplant, and less likely to receive a transplant once on the list; and

WHEREAS, Getting an organ transplant is often accompanied by several challenges, many of which can be attributed to factors such as the state of an individual's living circumstances, their economic status, literacy level, where the patients were born, poor advice from medical professionals, and racial discrimination among medical professionals. As a result, many Black, Indigenous, and people of color must unjustly wait longer for a much-needed new organ - or never receive one at all because of these barriers to care; these trends are also evident in groups suffering from liver disease. Asians and Latins individuals are more likely to be diagnosed with liver failure, but less likely to receive a transplant; and

WHEREAS, All too often, organ procurement organizations (OPOs) do not prioritize organ recovery from Black patients. Black patients are less likely to be referred by hospital staff to OPOs, including as the result of guidance by OPOs to not call them in specific circumstances "to avoid reporting on cases when the OPO believes donation is unlikely;" and

WHEREAS, organ procurement organizations and other donation partners are responsible for recognizing and working to overcome the many challenges to organ donation among Black people and people of color, including decreased awareness of transplantation, cultural mistrust of the medical community, financial concerns, and fear of the transplant operations. OPOs, transplant centers, and hospitals should implement specific organ donation education programs to reach marginalized communities. It is known that their communities often face hardships such as poverty and racial trauma, which in turn causes a high rate of mistrust of the medical system.

WHEREAS, This resolution reaffirms and builds upon the (2016) "Exploring the Option of Becoming an Organ Donor" resolution that supports and calls for education regarding organ donation.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly urges Health and Human Services (HHS) to move to an objective standard for evaluating OPOs so that OPOs can no longer choose-without consequence-not to approach certain families. As a practical matter, OPOs will have the incentive to invest more heavily in building relationships with hospitals that serve minority populations and in hiring a more diverse workforce.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly urges the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that organ donation reforms continue in the Biden-Harris administration as part of its commitment to equity.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP strongly urges HHS to create a new, dedicated Office of Organ Policy to implement pro-patient reforms. That office should ensure as many Americans as possible have access to organ transplants, centering racial equity in all organ donation policy decisions and making sure that a patient's ethnicity in no way limits the end-of-life decisions available to them.