Sunday, September 27, 2009

Opting In vs. Opting Out

Professor Richard Thaler makes the case for an opt-out system of organ donation in today's New York Times. Under an opt-out system, everyone is assumed to be a willing organ donor unless they fill out a government form saying they don't want to donate.

Any opt-out system of organ donation should give organs first to those who don't opt out. Under our current opt-in system, organs should be given first to those who opt in.

About 50% of the organs transplanted in America go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die. It's no wonder there is such a large organ shortage.

The United Network for Organ Sharing, which runs the national organ allocation system, has the power to put registered organ donors first. Sadly, it has not chosen to make this common-sense change. Americans who want to donate their organs to other organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a national non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. 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.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. 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.

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