Become An Organ Donor
By this time tomorrow, 12 people in America who are alive right now will be dead.
Not because they were in a car wreck,
Not because they were gunned down,
Not because their time had come,
not even because they weren’t in the hospital,
but simply because they couldn’t be given a life-saving transplant in time.
12 people will die because the organ transplant they need will not be possible.
Money’s not the issue here.
Nor is scarcity.
The demand for organs significantly surpasses the number of donors everywhere in the world. There are more potential recipients on organ donation waiting lists than organ donors. In particular, due to significant advances in dialysis techniques, patients suffering from end-stage renal disease (ESRD) can survive longer than ever before. Because these patients don't die as quickly as they used to, and as kidney failure increases with the rising age and prevalence of high blood pressure and diabetes in a society, the need especially for kidneys rises every year.
In the United States, about 115,152 people are on the waiting list, although about a third of those patients are inactive and could not receive a donated organ. Wait times and success rates for organs differ significantly between organs due to demand and procedure difficulty. Three-quarters of patients in need of an organ transplant are waiting for a kidney, and as such kidneys have much longer waiting times. At the Oregon Health and Science University, for example, the median patient who ultimately received an organ waited only three weeks for a heart and three months for a pancreas or liver — but 15 months for a kidney, because demand for kidneys substantially outstrips supply.
In Australia, there are 10.8 transplants per million people, about a third of the Spanish rate. The Lions Eye Institute, in Western Australia, houses the Lions Eye Bank. The Bank was established in 1986 and coordinates the collection, processing and distribution of eye tissue for transplantation. The Lions Eye Bank also maintains a waitlist of patients who require corneal graft operations. About 100 corneas are provided by the Bank for transplant each year, but there is still a waiting list for corneas.
"To an economist, this is a basic supply-and-demand gap with tragic consequences." Approaches to addressing this shortfall include:
donor registries and "primary consent" laws, to remove the burden of the donation decision from the legal next-of-kin. Illinois adopted a policy of "mandated choice" in 2006, which requires driver's license registrants to answer the question “Do you want to be an organ donor?” Illinois has a registration rate of 60 percent compared to 38 percent nationally.
The added cost of adding a question to the registration form is minimal.
monetary incentives for signing up to be a donor. Some economists have advocated going as far as allowing the sale of organs. The New York Times reported that “Gary Becker and Julio Jorge Elias argued in a recent paper that 'monetary incentives would increase the supply of organs for transplant sufficiently to eliminate the very large queues in organ markets, and the suffering and deaths of many of those waiting, without increasing the total cost of transplant surgery by more than 12 percent.'”
Iran allows the sale of kidneys, and has no waiting list.
The primary argument against this proposal is a moral one; as the article notes, many find such a suggestion repugnant.
As the National Kidney Foundation puts it, “Offering direct or indirect economic benefits in exchange for organ donation is inconsistent with our values as a society. Any attempt to assign a monetary value to the human body, or body parts, either arbitrarily, or through market forces, diminishes human dignity.”
an opt-out system ("dissent solution"), in which a potential donor or his/her relatives must take specific action to be excluded from organ donation, rather than specific action to be included. This model is used in several European countries, such as Austria, which has a registration rate eight times that of Germany, which uses an opt-in system.
social incentive programs, wherein members sign a legal agreement to direct their organs first to other members who are on the transplant waiting list. One example of a private organization using this model is LifeSharers, which is free to join and whose members agree to sign a document giving preferred access to their organs.
"The proposal [for an organ mutual insurance pool] can be easily summarized: An individual would receive priority for any needed transplant if that individual agrees that his or her organs will be available to other members of the insurance pool in the event of his or her death. … The main purpose [of this proposal] is to increase the supply of transplantable organs in order to save or improve more lives."