Should everyone be an organ donor by default?
via AP

Should everyone be an organ donor by default?

#EveryoneShouldGive
#DontStealMyOrgans
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Every French citizen will be an organ donor unless they opt-out under a new French law. Some activists say implementing an opt-out organ donation program would end the organ shortage in the United States. Others say an opt-out program could fuel distrust in the medical system and might negatively affect donation rates. What do you think? 💉

#EveryoneShouldGive
#DontStealMyOrgans

Supporters of an opt-out policy point say the biggest effect would be on society's attitudes on being an organ donor. Donating organs shouldn't be an exceptional thing, it should just be a thing that people do. 

Perhaps opt-out policies are useful in part because they change what it means to be an organ donor. In a 2012 study by a team of social psychologists from Cornell University and Stanford University, experimenters asked their participants to think about exactly that — what it means to be an organ donor. When considered in the context of opt-in policies, people tended to say that organ donation qualified as “exceptional” altruism — “more like leaving 50 percent of one’s estate to charity than like leaving 5 percent,” the authors write, or “more like taking part in a political campaign than like voting for mayor.” In contrast, when considered in an opt-out context, a refusal to donate one’s organs is what became exceptional, “more like skipping your child’s graduation than like skipping your child’s baseball game.” In light of an opt-out policy, a decision not to donate becomes a bigger deal

Experts say an opt-out program won't fix everything, and might not even make a real difference. 

What he and his colleagues learned was that even in the countries with presumed consent, donation was still discussed with the potential donor’s family at the time of death, even though doctors were legally permitted to transplant those organs. In six of the 13 countries, there is actually a legal requirement that doctors speak with relatives. This is done to be transparent with the family about the donation process and to obtain a complete medical and social history of the potential donor. Donation would not proceed if the family objected, just as in the United States, in all but one of the countries surveyed (Portugal), the researchers found. This is because of a fear of negative press, the participants told Segev’s team, and a desire to respect the wishes of the grieving family so as to prevent psychological harm.

If people feel as though they're being coerced into donating, there could be a backlash against organ donation that would balance out any potential gains. 

“Opt-out is not the magic bullet; it will not be the magic answer we have been looking for,” says Dorry L. Segev, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published online in the journal Transplantation. “With opt-out the perception becomes, We will take your organs unless you take the time to fill out a form. That’s a dangerous perception to have. We only want to use donated organs from people who intended to donate.”

Enforcing an opt-out policy raises tricky ethical questions and could challenge the relationship between the transplant community and the general public, which should be mutually supportive, Segev adds.
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