Nov 13, 2022
Gayle King: We welcome you back to CBS Mornings. We want to share a CBS News investigation into what it is literally a life or death situation for many Americans. More than 100,000 people in this country are waiting for an organ transplant right now. Think about that for a second; but only slightly more than half that number are expected to receive an organ within five years. Now we've got exclusive details from a congressional investigation that's raising some very serious questions about whether groups meant to make those donations happen are really doing enough. Our consumer investigative reporter Anna Werner also spoke to a woman whose life is in the balance.
LaQuayia Goldring: It's a daily battle.
Anna Werner: This is what dominates LaQuayia Goldring’ life; Four hours a day, five days a week sitting hooked up to a machine for home dialysis. It's the only way to clean her blood while she waits for a kidney transplant to keep her alive.
LaQuayia Goldring: I only have one shot at a transplant and until I get that call. My life is dependent upon a machine. A lot of dialysis patients are sitting around like me, just wondering when we will get the call.
Anna Werner: She's been waiting for seven years
LaQuayia Goldring: And I feel like the longer that I wait, the closer I am to death.
Anna Werner: Patients like Goldrig rely on non-profit groups that secure organs for transplants from deceased donors. They're called organ procurement organizations or OPOs; but a house subcommittee investigating the organ donation and transplant system in the U.S says OPOs are failing to secure many organs that could be recovered; Subcommittee Chair Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi:
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi: 17 to 20 people a day die on the waitlist because they can't get organs and the OPOs are just not recovering enough organs and making sure they're getting into people who need them.
Anna Werner: In August, the Senate Finance Committee said it's two and a half year investigation found from the top down, the U.S transplant network is not working; putting Americans lives at risk; and now in a letter sent to OPOs yesterday, the house subcommittee is raising questions about whether data provided by OPOs may be inaccurate and incomplete.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi: If you don't have proper data, then you don't know what organs exist and are usable to go into people who need them.
Anna Werner: Several OPOs told us in response, their data is accurate and they're committed to saving lives. The United Network for organ sharing UNOS said its systems are audited annually. And Dr Matt Cooper, the Board President at the time, told us in May:
Dr Matt Cooper: The data clearly demonstrates that year over year, our transplant system continues to be more and more successful.
Anna Werner: But not everyone in the system agrees. Matt Wadsworth heads one of those OPOs in Ohio. Do you believe that many of the OPOs Nationwide are failing?
Matt Wadsworth: Absolutely.
Anna Werner: He's the chief executive of OPO Life Connection in Dayton. In his first two years there, he says his organization doubled the number of organ donors in his region which meant many more lives saved. At the House Subcommittee's Hearing in 2021, Wadsworth told members of Congress other OPOs should be doing better too.
Matt Wadsworth: OPOs are grossly inefficient and unaccountable.
Anna Werner: Unaccountable he says because before this year, when the government changed the way OPOs are evaluated, some OPOs were able to make their numbers look better than they actually were. So you're the head of an OPO and you're saying yeah a lot of these guys were manipulating their data?
Matt Wadsworth: Yeah.
Anna Werner: And when they manipulated the data what did it make it look like?
Matt Wadsworth: That they were going after every opportunity, every time. They were converting every possible patient to be a successful organ donor and that's just not the truth; and they're the same bad players. If you look at the data, it's the same people; low performing year after year.
Anna Werner: The Association of Organ Procurement Organization says its members are doing a good job; that in the last five years OPOs have increased the number of deceased organ donors by 35 percent; but it agreed that improvements are necessary to advance care for patients like LaQuayia Goldring.
LaQuayia Goldring: It's heartbreaking it it truly brings tears to my eyes because I'm like that's more patients that are going to die or more patients that are going to be stuck waiting on that list.
Anna Werner: Something that even this OPO director became so emotional about during our interview
Matt Wadsworth: I was tired…
Anna Werner: He had to leave for a moment to compose himself. Why does that make you so emotional?
Matt Wadsworth: I because there's people dying, you know.
Gayle King: Yes, wow, wow. Goodness. Wew regulations passed during the Trump Administration set new standards for OPOs and a process to decertify them if they're below a par but that won't happen until 2026. The emotion that he showed at the end; Number one, you can't fake that. It shows that he deeply cares and also says, seems to be a big problem there.
Anna Werner is the consumer investigative national correspondent for "CBS Mornings" based in New York. Her reporting is also featured across all CBS News broadcasts and platforms, including the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," "48 Hours" and the CBS News Streaming Network, CBS News' premier 24/7 anchored streaming news service. Since joining CBS News in 2011, Werner has traveled across the globe.
Werner has reported on a host of investigative stories with subjects including phone scammers, insulin pricing, fraudulent generic drugs, harmful beauty products, high medical costs, lead in drinking water, breast implant cancer risks, financial scams of the elderly and grave robbing of native artifacts. She's also dug into medical record hacking, illegal dietary supplements, sperm donor anonymity, heavy metals in fruit juices, Instagram scams, child sex abuse, dangerous plastic surgery in Mexico, minors addicted to JUUL e-cigarettes, the hacking of medical devices, glyphosate in breakfast foods and the risks of crowdfunding. Her stories on the dangers of methylene chloride led to the toxic paint stripper being pulled from the shelves of most major national retailers.
At CBS News, Werner's stories have received widespread acclaim. Her award-winning reports have included a story on electric shock devices used on students at a Massachusetts special needs school which won a New York Newswomen's Front Page Award for Best Television Feature and a report on a district attorney gunned-down in Kaufman County, Texas, which led a Murrow-winning broadcast of the "CBS Evening News."
Before joining CBS News, Werner distinguished herself as a nationally recognized investigative reporter at CBS stations in Indianapolis (WISH), Houston (KHOU) and San Francisco (KPIX).
At KHOU, Werner initiated the national investigation of defective Firestone tires on Ford Explorers, breaking a story that resulted in the largest worldwide tire recall in history. After winning duPont-Columbia and George Foster Peabody awards for her Firestone stories, she won both of these awards again, along with a RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award when she uncovered a pattern of inaccurate DNA analyses by the Houston police crime lab. The stories resulted in a pardon for one wrongfully convicted teenager, the closure of the crime lab and the re-examination of hundreds of DNA samples.
At KPIX, Werner won two more Murrow awards, one for a story on I.C.E. deportation practices and another for donated clothes ending up being sold for profit in Africa. That same year, her series, "Unabomber, Evidence Revealed," won the Associated Press Bill Stout Award for Excellence in Enterprise News. She received her first Murrow award while working at WISH, where her hidden-camera investigation demonstrated serious abuse of developmentally disabled patients at New Castle State Developmental Center, resulting in the closure of the center.
Werner's coverage has won numerous other awards, including three Society of Professional Journalists awards, three Investigative Reporters and Editors awards, two Scripps-Howard Jack R. Howard Excellence in Media awards, a Scripps-Howard Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service, a George R. Polk award, and a National Headliner award. Werner was named the Chris Harris Reporter of the Year by the Associated Press Radio and Television Association in 2008 and 2010 and the Journalist of the Year by the Consumer Federation of California in 2010. She has won 33 Emmy awards, including awards for best reporter in 2000 and 2001 and again in 2008 and 2009.
A Chicago area native, Werner graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from Northern Illinois University.
This material is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the advice or counsel of a doctor or health care professional. KidneyLuv makes every effort to provide information that is accurate and timely, but makes no guarantee in this regard. You should consult with, and rely only on the advice of, your physician or health care professional.