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Timeline of Historical Events and Significant Milestones

Organ donation and transplantation history continues to be made, from the more recent full-face transplant to tissue and eye transplants more than 100 years ago. The following timeline provides insight on significant milestones in organ donation and transplantation history.

  • 2014 — Vascularized composite allographs are added to the organs covered by federal regulation and law, the National Organ Transplant Act.
  • 2010 — First successful full face transplant performed at Vall d’Hebron Hospital, Spain.

  • 2009 — END THE WAIT! campaign was launched by the National Kidney Foundation with the goal of increasing organ donation and ending the wait for kidney transplants.
  • 2008 — Stephanie Tubbs Jones Gift of Life Medal Act (PL 110-113). Allowed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a medal honoring organ donors.
  • 2007 — Charlie W. Norwood Living Organ Donation Act (PL 110-144). Determined that paired donation should not be considered under Section 301 of the National Organ Transplant Act.
  • 2006 — Donate Life America launched its Donor Designation Collaborative with the goal of increasing registered donors in the U.S. to 100 million.
  • 2006 — Institute of Medicine released its Organ Donation: Opportunities for Action report. The report provided 17 recommendations on the ethical and societal implications of ways to increase and improve the process of deceased organ donation.
  • 2005 — First successful partial face transplant performed in France.
  • 2004 — Organ Donation and Recovery Improvement Act (PL 108-216). Allowed the National Organ Transplant Act to reimburse travel and living expenses for living organ donors and provided for grants to states and public entities.
  • 2003 — The film, No Greater Love, was awarded an Emmy as a community service documentary (See 2002).
  • 2003 — HHS launched the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative to promote best practices to increase donation in the nation's largest hospitals. In 2005, transplant centers joined the program with the goal of increasing the number of organs per donor. A version of the program continues today as the Donation and Transplantation Community of Practice, managed by the The Alliance.   
  • 2003 — HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson designated April as National Donate Life Month.
  • 2002 — The HHS released No Greater Love at the Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC. This hour-long film, narrated by Angela Lansbury, shows the power of transplantation and the need for more donors.
  • 2002 — Up-to-the-minute data on the number of people waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. are now available online from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).
  • 2001 — HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson launched the Gift of Life Donation program. Its goal was to increase organ, tissue, marrow, and blood donations.
  • 2001 — The number of living donors exceeds number of deceased donors for the first time in the U.S.
  • 2001 — First successful hand transplant, performed by University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital.
  • 2000 — Children’s Health Act (PL 106-310). Changed the National Organ Transplant Act to require the OPTN to adopt criteria and policies that address children’s unique needs.

  • 1999 — Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the Organ Procurement and Transplantation report. IOM recommended   to stop using waiting time in allocation of less ill liver patients; reaffirmed the federal government's OPTN oversight role; established independent review of the OPTN; and recommended improvements to collection and the use use of OPTN data for research or analysis.
  • 1999 — Organ Donor Leave Act (PL 106-56). Allowed federal employees to receive paid leave and serve as living organ or marrow donors.
  • 1999 — First successful hand transplant, done in the U.S. 
  • 1998 — Plasmapheresis was introduced, which allowed kidney transplants in patients whose blood group or antibodies didn’t match the donor’s. 
  • 1998 — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued its Hospital Conditions of Participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs. This requires hospitals to refer all deaths and approaching deaths to the local organ procurement organization.
  • 1996 — Congress allowed the Internal Revenue Services to mail organ and tissue donation information with income tax refunds. This effort reached 70 million households.
  • 1995 — First living donor kidney removed by laparoscopic surgery. This method uses a small incision, and donors have an easier recovery.
  • 1991 — Surgeon General Antonia Novella held a national workshop on increasing organ donation. 
  • 1990 — First successful living donor lung transplant.
  • 1990 — Nobel Prize awarded to Dr. Joseph E. Murray and Dr. E. Donnall Thomas. Dr. Murray did the first successful kidney transplant in 1954. Dr. Thomas did the first bone marrow transplant in 1968.
  • 1990 — Medicare pays for liver transplants for the first time.

  • 1989 — First successful small intestine transplant.
  • 1988 — First split-liver transplant surgery. This allows two people to each receive part of one donated liver.
  • 1987 — First successful intestine transplant.
  • 1987 — Medicare pays for heart transplants for the first time.
  • 1986 — Required Request legislation. This law required hospitals to give families of deceased patients the chance to donate their loved one’s organs.
  • 1986 — The first OPTN contract is awarded by the HHS to the United Network for Organ Sharing. The OPTN provides services for the allocation of organs. It also sets membership rules for transplant centers in the U.S.
  • 1985 — The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985 (PL 99-272)-. Began Requiring states to have written standards for the coverage of organ transplants to qualify for payments under Title XIX of the Social Security Act.
  • 1984 — The National Organ Transplant Act (PL 98-507). Made it illegal to sell human organs. It also establishes the OPTN to make sure donated organs are allocated fairly, and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients to evaluate the scientific and clinical status of organ transplantation. It also provides for grants establish organ procurement organizations.
  • 1983/1984 — First successful lung and heart/liver combined transplant performed.
  • 1983 — First successful single-lung transplant with recipient survival of more than 6 years. 
  • 1983 — Surgeon General C. Everett Koop held the first workshop on solid organ procurement for transplant. 
  • 1983 — The Food and Drug Administration approved cyclosporine. This drug can improve transplant outcomes as its reduces the potential for organ rejection.
  • 1983 — The first National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week declared by Congress.
  • 1981 — First combined heart/lung transplant performed.
  • 1980 — Uniform Determination of Death Act defines death as either the permanent stop of blood flow and breathing or the permanent stop of all brain activities.

  • 1976 — Discovery of cyclosporine’s ability to suppress the immune system. This drug helps prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.
  • 1968 — Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) established the Uniform Donor Card as a legal document of gift in all 50 states. The UAGA  also identifies who could donate a deceased person's organs, and allows people over 18 to donate their organs upon death.
  • 1968 — The first organ procurement organization (OPO) established, New England Organ Bank based in Boston.
  • 1968 — First definition of brain death based on neurological criteria.
  • 1968 — First bone marrow transplant performed.
  • 1967 — First successful heart transplant performed in South Africa.
  • 1967 — First heart transplant performed in the U.S. 
  • 1967 — First simultaneous kidney/pancreas transplant performed.
  • 1967 — First successful liver transplant performed.
  • 1966 — First successful pancreas transplant performed.
  • 1963 — First organ recovered from a brain-dead donor.
  • 1962/1963 — First kidney, lung, and liver transplants recovered from deceased donors.
  • 1960 — First successful kidney transplant between siblings who were not twins.
  • 1959 — First successful kidney transplant performed between fraternal twins. 
  • 1954 — First successful kidney transplant performed. A living donor gave a kidney to his identical twin. 
  • 1906 — First transplant of a cornea performed.
  • 1869 — First skin transplant performed.
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