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I-Team: Professor Helps Organ Transplant Patients On Multiple Waiting Lists

BOSTON (CBS) - The I-Team recently reported how patients in New England on organ transplant waiting lists wait longer than just about anyone else in the country. And if they are fortunate enough to receive an organ, they are usually sicker by the time it finally becomes available.

Many patients now multi list in different regions across the country, hoping to improve their odds.

When Apple founder Steve Jobs needed a liver transplant, he traveled in a private jet from his home in California to Memphis because that area of the country tends to have shorter waiting times.

Dr. David Mulligan, a liver transplant specialist at the Yale University School of Medicine, said, "About 8% of the people on the wait list right now have the means to multi organ list. The rules are very clear. We're free to list in as many centers as we would like."

Patti Mahoney of Amherst, New Hampshire needs a heart transplant. She is lucky her family can pull together the resources for her to be listed here at the Brigham, and at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Getting on more than one waiting list was recommended by Mahoney's doctor.

"When she said that, you're going to have to move to get dual list, you won't receive a heart here, you won't survive, we were taken aback," explained Mahoney.

Organs are currently donated and distributed within 11 regional districts. There has been a push to revamp the system so waiting times can be evened out.

Dr. Mulligan is working on a national committee examining how that can be done fairly. "Somebody in Boston shouldn't have to feel bad that that's where they live and they don't the means to go to Florida."

Sridhar Tayur
Sridhar Tayur (WBZ-TV)

Professor Sridhar Tayur of Carnegie Mellon University has developed, a web site which helps patients determine where waiting times are shorter. It also facilitates transportation.

Tayur was troubled by the Steve Jobs case and wanted to help less affluent patient's multi list. He says his system can cut years off a person's waiting time.

It is not a perfect solution, as Tayur readily admits. Fares can run as high as $12,000 and there are also additional living expenses. He hopes there can be a trickle-down effect; if people with means leave the long wait districts, patients who couldn't afford to travel would move up as the wealthier people left.

Tayur hopes a long term solution is found, but believes in the meantime, his system can save lives. He doesn't make any profit on the service.

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