Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rewarding donors will produce more donors

LifeSharers released a proposal last year calling for the United Nework for Organ Sharing to create two transplant waiting lists in the United States -- the 'A' list for registered organ donors, and the 'B' list for everybody.

Under this proposal, all organs would be allocated to people on the 'A' list, with non-donors on the 'B' list only getting organs not needed by registered organ donors. If UNOS did this, just about everyone would register as an organ donor. Very few people would refuse to donate if refusing meant they'd probably never get an organ transplant if they ever needed one.

USA Today published a story about some reactions to this proposal, including this:

Mark Fox, associate director of the Oklahoma Bioethics Center at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, says fixes such as the LifeSharers plan have "inherent logic" to them.

Perhaps prior willingness to donate could factor in as a "tiebreaker" in awarding organs, but he says there is no evidence such a plan would increase donation.

Since the LifeSharers plan hasn't been implemented, there is of course no "evidence" that it would increase donations. But there is every reason to think it would do exactly that. It's basic human nature. When you reward a behavior, you get more of it.

More from Dr. Fox:
"We are an age- and death-defying society," he says. Most people do not sign up to donate because they do not think about their own medical frailties, he says.
The LifeSharers plan gives people a good reason to think about their medical frailties. If you think about the possibility you might someday need a transplant, and if you know you probably wouldn't get one if you didn't sign up to be a donor, you will probably sign up to donate.

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