Is It Time We Consider Presumed Consent for Organ Donation?

There has been a lot of talk about 10 year old Sarah Murnaghan’s lung transplant and whether the way we distribute organs is fair.  I haven’t heard anyone talking about how to increase the number of donors, except to pay the donor’s family? Sorry, that sounds like a slippery slope to auctioning off body parts to the highest bidder. There are better options.

There are 100,000 people waiting for transplants, and 19 people die each day waiting for organs. Belgium, Austria and Spain have opt-out systems called Presumed Consent-versus our system of opt-in. As a citizen of one of these countries, it is presumed that you will be an organ donor after death unless you have opted-out and your family has not objected. You can decide to opt out and your organs will be buried or cremated-in other words-wasted as you wish. If you have not opted out, when you die your organs will be harvested and another life or lives will be saved. I can hear it now-“But I don’t trust the medical community to wait until I’m really dead!” For most of us, that is just an excuse for not accepting oue own mortality. If this is a legitimate fear, you opt-out ­– problem solved.

Alternatively, we could adopt the plan that Israel instituted in 2008. Starting that year, signing up to be an organ donor had definite benefits. If two patients require an organ donation and have the same medical needs, preference goes to the one who signed a donor card, which has led to significantly higher organ donor rates.

Though the U.S. may not embrace opt-out and reciprocal donor card programs, we must appeal to all Americans to donate organs after death. Family refusal is a major factor that affects the numbers of organ donations. The main reason for refusal is lack of knowledge of their loved one’s wishes.

So, sign a donor card and tell your family. Let’s all “give a little of ourselves” literally so others can live!

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