NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 11, 2008

Organ transplantation research provides little support to presidential candidate John Edward's premise that single-payer health-care systems offer a more equitable allocation of scarce resources or better clinical outcomes, says Scott Gottlieb, practicing physician and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Consider the case of organ transplants:

  • In 2002, U.S. doctors performed 18.5 liver transplants per one million Americans.
  • This is significantly more than in the United Kingdom (U.K.) or in single-payer France, which performed 4.6 per million citizens, or in Canada, which performed 10 per million.

According to a recent study:

  • Patients' five-year mortality after transplants for acute liver failure was about 5 percent higher in the United Kingdom and Ireland than the United States.
  • In the period right after surgery, death rates were as much as 27 percent higher in the United Kingdom and Ireland than in the United States.

These findings aren't confined to transplanted livers.  According to a study in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, patients were more likely to receive hearts in the United States, even when they were older and sicker:

  • The rate was 8.8 transplants per one million people, compared to 5.4 in the United Kingdom.
  • Over the same period, about 15 percent of patients died while waiting for new hearts in the United Kingdom compared to 12 percent in the United States.
  • In 2006, there were 28,931 transplants of all organ types in the United States, 96.8 transplants for every one million Americans.
  • There were 2,999 total organ transplants in the United Kingdom, 49.5 transplants for every one million British citizens.

Source: Scott Gottlieb, "Edwards and Organ Transplantation," Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2008.

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