Monday, May 03, 2010

NY presumed consent proposal: all stick no carrot

New York could be the first state that presumes everyone wants to donate their organs unless they specifically say otherwise, according to a story in the Washington Post. If a recently introduced bill becomes law, hospitals in New York will be able to assume you have given consent to organ donation unless you haved previously filled out an official form saying otherwise.

Only about 50% of adult Americans have signed up to donate their organs when they die. Supporters of presumed consent say it will increase the supply of transplantable organs. They say few people will opt out, since about 90% of adult Americans say they support organ donation.

Presumed consent is all stick and no carrot. If we're going to presume people are organ donors unless they opt out, we should also give people a reason to NOT opt out. Donated organs should be allocated first to those who haven't opted out. People who opt out of organ donation should go to the back of the transplant waiting list. The United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a 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.

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