Using data from 33,928 patients, a recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University revealed that patients on more than one transplant wait-list had shorter wait times. The study focused on patients who were on multiple heart, lung, liver, or kidney transplant lists, and found that at least in regard to heart transplants, the median wait time for a patient on more than one list was 105 days—as compared to 151 days for a patient on only one list. Of those patients on multiple transplant lists, the data from the United Network for Organ Sharing revealed that the patients lived in zip codes with a higher than average income.
The researchers opine that the unequal distribution in transplant wait times is due, in part, to the fact that some patients can afford to travel greater distances and put their names on multiple transplant lists. Many of the patients on multiple transplant lists had to travel about 400 miles to the nearest alternative hospital, adding fuel and temporary housing costs. These expenses make multiple listings more difficult for less well-off patients. In addition, some have argued that hospital administrators may favor patients who have traveled a long way because there is a tendency to feel that “a person [who] has come a long way . . . really ought to [have] the best shot of getting a transplant.” Although this data is revealing, the study has yet to undergo peer review. However, the data does suggest that the multiple listing system may result in inequitable transplant distributions.