The controversy started last year, when federal health officials proposed a system of organ sharing with less emphasis on geography. Most of the transplant community opposed the changes, wary that organs would be funneled to the larger medical facilities. The compromise by the United Network of Organ Sharing was to share within regions, rather than the nation. But Wisconsin refuses to follow the new procedures. Officials from the state, whose donor programs are rated among the best, are worried that there will be "a mass exodus" of donated organs out of the state, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. To make matters more heated, a local hero, former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, is waiting for a liver at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn. Potentially, he would be helped by the new rules.
Wisconsin and Illinois have a new border problem: transplant wars. Wisconsinites, fearing new federal rules will let Chicago hospitals take a disproportionate share of donated organs, are leading a group of states including North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota in trying to exclude Illinois from a new organ-sharing network. They anticipate that Illinois could acquire as many as 120 donated livers at their expense in the next four years.