Thursday, June 23, 2005

AMA suggests studying presumed consent and mandated choice

The American Medical Association has adopted a new policy that "calls for physicians to encourage and support pilot studies that investigate the effectiveness of presumed consent and mandated choice for organ donation." (You can see the AMA's press release here.)

In presumed consent, a willingness to donate is assumed unless an individual specifically opts out by withdrawing consent. In mandated choice, individuals are required to express a preference for or against organ donation.

It's good to see the AMA trying to do something to help increase organ donation rates. Presumed consent and mandated choice would both probably help reduce the organ shortage -- if they were legal. But they're not, and it's extremely unlikely they will become legal in the forseeable future. Both of these policies are controversial. Neither of these policies enjoys broad-based support. So there's no reason to think Congress or state legislatures will legalize them.

Rather than support policies that are not legal and will not become legal, the AMA should throw its weight behind an already-legal policy that can quickly reduce the organ shortage. The AMA should urge the United Network for Organ Sharing to start allocating organs first to registered organ donors.

Imagine UNOS announced that, until the organ shortage was eliminated, it was going to stop giving organs to people who weren't registered organ donors. Millions and millions of people would register. Thousands of lives would be saved every year.

LifeSharers is implementing this policy from the ground up, and we will eventually put a big dent in the organ shortage in the United States. UNOS can accomplish the same thing much faster by implementing the LifeSharers approach from the top down. UNOS has the power. It should use it.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Whose organs are they, anyway?

Dr. Douglas Hanto, a transplant surgeon in Boston, wants to stop you from deciding who gets your organs when you die. Unless, of course, you decide to give them to the kind of people he approves.

At a meeting in Chicago earlier this month, Dr. Hanto suggested limiting directed donation. "Directed donation, except in the context of relatives or emotionally related friends, unfairly directs organs away from the neediest patients on the waiting list, and in the case of deceased donor organs, bypasses approved allocation policies and should not be permitted," said Hanto, who represented the American Society of Transplant Surgeons at the meeting. (See this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for more.)

If Dr. Hanto tried to stop people from deciding who got their charitable contributions (or who got their property when they died) most people would be outraged. It's even more outrageous to tell people they can't decide who will get their organs when they die.

Stopping people from deciding who will get their organs would also cause fewer people to donate their organs. That would mean more people would die waiting for transplants.

I want my organs to go to other organ donors. So do over 3,100 people who have joined LifeSharers. They're our organs, Dr. Hanto, and we'll decide who gets them.

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