On CBS Washington’s Off Script the National Kidney Foundation Sheds Light on the Kidney Discard Crisis

According to new Harris Poll data, 51.6 million Americans, or twice the population of Texas, are on dialysis or know someone who is currently on dialysis. But very few Americans are aware of the serious kidney transplant crisis that each day, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 10 kidneys are discarded, and 12 people die waiting for one.

Findings from the survey, which was conducted in partnership with the National Kidney Foundation, also revealed that just 13% of U.S. adults know that, in 2016, 20% of deceased donor kidneys were discarded without ever being used for transplant and 42%, or roughly 98.5 million Americans, were not at all sure.  

NKF board member, Dr. Matthew Cooper, discussed the kidney discard crisis and more on CBS Washington’s Off Script on Wednesday, December 19. In addition to serving on NKF’s scientific advisory board, Cooper is also the director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at the Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute in Georgetown University. He was joined by one of his patients, 33-year-old Erin Taylor, who recently had a transplant after being on the waiting list for nine years.


Many Americans don’t know that kidneys from an imperfect deceased donor can still offer hope. After being informed that life expectancy on dialysis varies (the average is about 5-10 years), approximately 65.7 million Americans, said they (or think those they know on dialysis) would be willing to consider a deceased donor kidney of lower than average quality. There are many reasons why kidneys are discarded, yet experts believe that life expectancy with a kidney from an imperfect deceased donor is better than staying on dialysis.

Currently, there are 95,235 people waiting for a kidney—the highest waitlist out of all the other organs. NKF is working with partners and stakeholders to decrease the number of kidneys discarded, and potentially the number of deaths. One of those strategies includes providing the first systematic nationwide approach to reducing kidney discards. NKF’s approach was published this year in the Clinical Transplantation, the Journal of Clinical and Translational Research and it offers recommendations for removing barriers, increasing the number of kidneys available for transplantation from deceased donors, and providing the necessary support to ensure no organ is wasted for those most in need.

“We have to continue to work towards getting more people the opportunity of the gift of life rather than hanging on to that number of 20% discards,” said Cooper. “There is a better answer out there.”

NKF CEO, Kevin Longino added: “We here at the National Kidney Foundation are leading the way to reduce the number of kidneys discarded and ensure that more patients waiting on a kidney transplant receive their second chance at life.

“We are calling on members of the medical community and both the private and public sectors to work with us to develop groundbreaking solutions to increasing kidney transplantation and saving more lives.”