Sunday, January 27, 2008

Free driver's licenses for registered organ donors

A bill introduced in the Vermont legislature would waive the $10 annual driver's license fee for anyone who registered to donate their organs when they die, according to an article in the Burlington Free Press.

This is a great idea. The state of Georgia used to offer discounted driver's licenses to registered organ donors, and it had a significant positive impact in donor registration rates. The discount program was ended after a few years, supposedly for budgetary reasons. See our previous post on this.

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Taking and giving organs

Only 38% of licensed drivers in Delaware are registered organ donors, according to an editorial in the Wilmington News Journal. I bet just about every single one of the other 62% would accept an organ transplant if they needed one to live. Where do you suppose these people think the live-saving organs they may need are going to come from?

It's just not right to be willing to take organs if you're not willing to give them.

About 50% of the organs transplanted in America go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die. As long as we let non-donors jump to the front of the waiting list if they need a transplant we'll always have an organ shortage. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Rationing organ transplants

Nataline Sarkisyan died last month after her health insurance company refused to pay for a liver transplant but then changed its decision after a lot of negative publicity.

According to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Nataline Sarkisyan's case raises complex questions about how we ration resources - money and, in this case, transplantable livers - and how we make medical decisions in what one ethicist called 'last-chance' situations."

There aren't enough livers available to give one to every person who needs a liver transplant. Deciding to give a liver to one person means someone else won't get one. These are undoubtedly difficult decisions to make.

Deciding whether or not to donate your organs when you die seems very simple in comparision. But only about 50% of adult Americans have registered as organ donors. About half of the livers that could be donated are buried or cremated instead. The people who blow the easy decision about donating force the difficult decisions about rationing.

Under the organ allocation rules used by the United Network for Organ Sharing, people who won't donate pay no price for their decision. They remain eligible to receive a transplant if they ever need one. It's no wonder there is such a large shortage of livers.

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