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National Organ Transplant Act enacted 30 years ago

On October 19, 1984, the Congress of the United States approved the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA). It not only established the framework for the U.S. organ transplant system but has served as a model for development of other transplant networks worldwide.

Through the establishment of a national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), the law directed that organ allocation would be managed on a national basis and be developed through a unique public-private partnership. Since the initial network contract was finalized in 1986, United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has served as the OPTN under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

OPTN policies are developed by a broad community that includes donation and transplant clinicians and professionals, as well as people personally touched by the donation and transplant experience. NOTA and subsequent federal regulation call on the OPTN to emphasize fair and equitable patient access to transplantation, as well as reliance on objective medical evidence and adaptability to rapid evolution in clinical treatment and scientific understanding.

Many of the OPTN’s responsibilities, priorities and policies have changed over the years. Yet the lifesaving gift organ donation, and the continuing need of candidates awaiting a transplant, remain the same today as they did 30 years ago. To fulfill the ultimate goals of NOTA, we must continue to ensure that the national transplant network allocates organs efficiently and fairly. We must also build public knowledge and trust in organ donation to help increase transplant opportunities for everyone in need.

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