Regional News

HHS Secretary Discusses Organ Transplant System In Oregon

PORTLAND, OR -- The Biden Administration is working to modernize the nation’s organ transplantation system, and an Oregon U.S. Senator is pushing for the work to happen faster and more efficiently.

Senator Ron Wyden hosted a meeting Monday with the Health and Human Services Secretary in Portland. They heard from Oregon doctors who say they see too many patients die while waiting for an organ. Sen. Wyden told Sec. Xavier Becerra, "100,000 people on the waiting list to receive a transplant. That is the equivalent, Mr. Secretary, of filling every seat in our basketball arena Moda five times over. And on average, 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant."

One doctor said one of her hardest jobs is asking a family to allow a loved one’s organs to be donated. The group also included a donor and recipient. "I sat next to someone who donated an organ," said Sen. Wyden, "And the person next to them said, ‘my life was changed for the better.’ That’s what this is all about."

Sec. Becerra acknowledges there's frustration, "Lack of trust in the system, the need to be fair and not leave people out because of their zip code or their circumstance." He says the modernization effort began in March, and the transition is a delicate process, "We have organs that are right now in the process of getting to that transplantee, and so we have to make sure we continue with those who are in the pipeline, but make the changes so that we can do this far more transparently, far more efficiently. We need to get to the point where we don’t let one organ go to waste."

HHS is renegotiating contracts for the board overseeing the system, in an effort to make it more independent and improve accountability. Sec. Becerra says restoring trust in the system is a top priority. 

Learn more about organ donation at


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