Apple Inc., maker of devices such as the iPod and the iPhone, is headquartered in Cupertino, Calif. The company’s CEO, Steve Jobs, lives in the area. Yet when Jobs needed a transplant to replace his liver, diseased by the spread of pancreatic cancer, the iconic Silicon Valley executive did not get his new organ at nearby Stanford University Medical Center — or anywhere else in California.
Instead, he traveled more than 2,000 miles to Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tenn., where the wait list for a liver is about 80% shorter, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing. The median wait for a man Jobs’ age to receive a liver in the organ-allocation region where Memphis is located is 543 days — about a third the wait time of Jobs’ home California region.
The case highlights longstanding regional disparities in wait lists for life-saving transplants and has reignited debate over how a few well-to-do patients are able to register as potential recipients at distant centers to better their odds of getting an organ. These inequities in the nation’s organ-allocation system should be addressed, say transplant physicians and medical ethicists.
The whole shebang.