Can I be denied an organ transplant?

Katrina Bramstedt, PhD
Health Education

Yes, there is no entitlement to organ transplant. Donor organs are very scarce and they must be allocated only to patients who can benefit from them. Transplant Teams are very skilled at evaluating patients to determine if they can benefit from a new organ. Below are some reasons why patients are denied organ transplant:

  1. The patient is too sick and would die if the surgeon even attempted a transplant. (The patient would die in the operating room).
  2. The patient has a significant history of not complying with medical advice (not taking medication as prescribed, failure to attend check-ups, eating an unhealthy diet, smoking tobacco, using recreational drugs, excessive alcohol use).
  3. The patient has an unstable social support system and financial problems making them potentially unable to care for themselves (access to food, shelter, transportation, clothing, medication, medical care, emotional support).
  4. The patient has unstable mental health problems which put the donor organ at risk of rejection (due to increased risk of medication non-compliance).
  5. The patient does not need an organ transplant because there are other treatments that are more suitable.
  6. The patient has a terminal disease that cannot be corrected with an organ transplant.
  7. The patient has a recent history of cancer (other than liver cancer that is treatable with a liver transplant).
  8. The patient already had one (or more) organ transplants in the past and another one is not appropriate (due to the patient's underlying disease or compliance problems)
  9. The patient has a history of recent suicide attempts.
  10. The patient has unrealistic expectations about transplantion (e.g., the patient does not want to take immunosuppressant medication following transplant).
  11. The patient appears unmotivated or ambivalent about receiving an organ transplant.

If you feel that you have been unjustly denied an organ transplant, you can request a consultation from a medical ethicist and/or seek a transplant evaluation from another transplant center. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.