Organ donation in the United States is an ailing system. I haven’t been able to find solid numbers on exactly how many organs are wanted so I settled on inserting a stupid pun instead. I hope you’re okay with that. Anyway, the prevailing notion was that the disparity in organs needed to organs donated could be overcome by creating an opt out system rather than the current opt in one. Interestingly, according to a poorly sourced nytimes article, that didn’t work in europe.
Other countries, like Spain and Austria, have tried an opt-out approach, called presumed consent. Every patient who dies is assumed to have consented to organ donation, unless they have specifically declined. However, this hasn’t necessarily increased the number of organ donations, in part because doctors find it extremely difficult to go against family wishes if surviving family members are strongly opposed to donation.
I dug around a bit and it seems like the problem is not in the opting but rather the cultural, infrastructure, and public policy aspects that make it more complicated. Generally though it seems like, all other things being equal, opt out is actually more effective. The problem it seems is that opt out only improves donation rates slightly.
A third way to increase donations is being pioneered in Israel. Until now, Israel ranked at the bottom of Western countries on organ donation. Jewish law proscribes desecration of the dead, which has been interpreted by many to mean that Judaism prohibits organ donation. Additionally, there were rabbinic issues surrounding the concept of brain death, the state in which organs are typically harvested. As a result, many patients died waiting for organs.
So Israel has decided to try a new system that would give transplant priority to patients who have agreed to donate their organs. In doing so, it has become the first country in the world to incorporate “nonmedical” criteria into the priority system, though medical necessity would still be the first priority.
:: Good Article via the NYTimes (via FB thanks Dustin, Josh, etc) ::
There are a few people that argue that we should be able to sell our organs on an open market. My understanding is that no one has figured out how to make that work so that it doesn’t result in organ theft, botched transplants, and fucking over poor people who can’t do anything when people lie and abuse them. It was legal in India up until 1994. It’s still legal in Iran. The Wikipedia has a decent article on Organ Donation. I’m still a little surprised because this seems like a pretty easy problem.
It might be interesting to set up a website that created some sort of bounty system for referring people to successful donations. Maybe something that said if you can get x many people to register, we’ll help you find a donor for a friend or family member? It might also be interesting to offer a bounty for signups like they do for ballot initiatives. 10 dollars per person who joins the organ donation registry.