A new 30-year study of the organ transplant system has found that women are less likely to be placed on transplant list and wait far longer than men once on it, a remarkable and life-altering disparity that is partially attributable to biology but mostly appears to be the result of institutional sexism.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a government-backed organization that facilitates the transplant system, men wait an average of three months for a lung transplant — a procedure that can often quite literally mean life or death for a patient. Women, meanwhile, are forced to wait an average of eight months for a lung transplant. According to another study, that long wait time has dire consequences — women were found to be more than 50 percent more likely than men to die or be too sick for transplant by the time they made it to the top of the lung transplant waitlist. Remarkably, while women make up nearly 60 percent of the waitlist for lung transplants, more than 60 percent of lung transplants this year to date have nonetheless gone to men.
Biology does play some role in this discrepancies. While people with large bodies — and large organs — are typically able to accept either small or large organs during transplants, small bodied people are unable to accept organs from people of larger bodies. Since women have smaller bodies on average than men, that means that fewer organs are typically available to them. Women’s stronger immune systems also lead to a three times greater chance that a woman’s body rejects an organ compared to men — a factor that potentially pushes surgeons in search of higher success rates to be biased in favor of male patients.
Nonetheless, biology alone cannot account for the way women appear quite literally to be pushed to the bottom of transplant lists in favor of men. Researchers examining liver transplants estimated that at least half of gender disparity in organ allocation wasn’t attributable to biology. Researchers worldwide have gone further, directly attributing longer wait times with gender bias.
Read the full story at HuffPost.