MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The battle over body parts is heating up in the Mid-South. Supporters of Mid-South Transplant Foundation are pointing fingers at Methodist Hospital doctors, saying they are misleading the public. They accuse the hospital's doctors of trying to scare people into believing there will soon be fewer organs available for transplants.
Truth is next year there will be fewer organs available if your or a loved one needs to get a transplant.
Mid-South Transplant Foundation Director Kim Von Frank isn't mincing words about Methodist Hospital's transplant business practices.
"The current system, in essence, discriminates against those patients that don't get their transplants at Methodist," she said. "The current system allows Methodist first right of refusal to many livers, giving patients at Methodist opportunity to get livers much quicker; many times these patients go ahead of someone in greater need."
It allowed the late Apple founder Steve Jobs to come to Memphis and get a liver much faster than if he's stayed in his home state of California.
In fact more than a third of patients on Methodist's waiting list for a liver aren't from Tennessee.
Methodist's response was, "Do we have patients on waiting list not from Tennessee? Yes, but so does every other transplant center in the U.S."
What's at the root cause of all this finger pointing? Tennessee is served by two different organ donation groups. One serves the Memphis area, the other serves the rest of the state.
An agreement allows the companies to share organs from either area, in effect offering the entire state access to more organs. But in December that agreement ends.
Doctors say truth is if that's allowed to happen it will cause a 75 percent decrease for Mid-South patients' access to life saving organs.
According to Steve Schwab with the UT Health Science Center, "There will be many fewer transplants done in Tennessee, particularly west Tennessee will be dramatically disadvantaged."
To fix the problem the two agencies in Tennessee could merge, but truth is there's been an ongoing power struggle between Methodist and Mid-South Transplant Foundation.
"I think the business decisions made by Methodist have hurt Mid-South Transplant, but we have to rise above that," Schwab said.
Transplant doctors say it's not about Methodist getting first crack at organs, it's about saving lives.
Methodist hospital is the fourth busiest liver transplant center in the country. Truth is they could lose a lot of business, but it also means west Tennesseans could lose their lives waiting for surgery if nothing changes by the end of the year.