Health Team

Study: Gender disparity exists in liver transplants

Posted November 25, 2008

— Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that women are less likely to receive a liver transplant than men and more likely to die despite an effort to correct biases in the allocation of organs.

Duke’s Dr. Cynthia Moylan lead research to look at the way donor livers are allocated.

The system was revamped in 2002 in hopes of eliminating disparities that had left more black and female patients waiting longer for a donor liver and dying more quickly.

“Many times we found that the process was biased by different physicians assessing a patient's liver disease differently,” Moylan said.

The study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the effects of implementing the MELD Score System (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease).

“With the use of the MELD score allocation system, we found that racial inequity has been greatly reduced,” Moylan said.

However, gender disparity remains, leaving women less likely to receive a transplant than men and more likely to die.

Moylan says there are several reasons for the racial disparity that once existed in liver allocation, but it's difficult to explain why gender disparity exists today.

“It's important that we make sure that these livers are allocated fairly,” she said said.

Liver transplant recipient Alice Jones Mayer said it took 10 weeks for her to get a new liver, but years later when she needed a second one, she had to wait for a year and a half.

Now she feels she can finally live her life.

“I actually feel great. I feel that I've crossed some threshold and I feel like I have an opportunity to live a full life,” Mayer said.


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  • Lady Justice Nov 26, 2008

    I would be interested in knowing what the numbers actually are. How much of a difference is there really? It would be hard for me to believe that if a woman had a greater need that she would by bypassed because of her gender. Where is the rest of the story?

  • Polar-Bear Nov 26, 2008

    Determining who needs a liver transplant is a gender-neutral decision. This decision is primarily based on a candidate's MELD score which is determined by blood test. A person with a MELD score of 10 would not get top priority over someone with a MELD score of 24. Blood test are gender-neutral test. Basically, the person that is about to die gets the next transplant. The time that a person waits on the list is NOT a determining factor. I currently am awaiting a liver transplant and my MELD score is around a 15. I have been on the list for about 3.5 years. This news story is a non-event. If people would do their homework about this subject, this would have never been reported.