In the United States, a person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, joining around 120,000 others who are already on it. Over 120,000 people were in need of an organ transplant at the end of 2015.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 33,606 organs were donated in 2016. These numbers do not inspire an optimistic attitude.
Many people on the waitlist will die before they can receive a life-saving donation. It is not just old people or people who have been in accidents who need these transplants; kids who are born with physical defects and sicknesses also need them. Regardless of who may need an organ donation from an eligible donor, the process must be deemed necessary.
The United States utilizes an opt-in system. If a person wants to donate his or her organs in the aftermath of his or her death, that person simply has to check a box. The rate of organ donation in the United States is 26.6 organs per 1 million people.
Spain, a leading country when it comes to donations, boasts a rate of 35.7 organs per 1 million people. Spain, along with other countries like Austria, Belgium and Wales, has an opt-out policy.
As of Jan. 1, all French citizens are marked as organ donors unless they choose to retract their names from the National Rejection Register. Previously, unless the deceased had made their wish to donate their organs clear, doctors had to consult relatives. A third of these cases involved the family opting out of donation. Currently, out of over 66 million people, only around 150,000 have opted out.
The opt-out system makes it so that more people are discouraged from opting out of becoming an organ donor. Just like voter registration, organ donation is also an opt-in service in the United States. Ordinarily, an individual has to register as an organ donor while getting some form of nationally recognized identification. This opt-in system is an extra step that some people are not willing to take. Opt-out systems give them another option.
France has made attempts to get more people to donate for a while. In November, the French Agency of Biomedicine released a film called Deja-vu 2, which they hoped would inspire people between the ages of 15 and 25 years to donate.
The European Union has also been working to impose on its citizens the dire need for organ donation. It has reported that in 2014, 86,000 people were on the waiting list in European countries, specifically in Norway and Turkey.
In both of these countries, 16 people on average who were waiting for a potential organ donor died every day.
There are some people who believe that the opt-out system is a cause for worry because it may disrespect a person’s autonomy. This is flawed because even with this law in place, everyone still has a choice. Citizens can easily say “no” by either mailing in their rejection or registering online.
The only thing that could stop people is laziness. If they are too lazy to complete a simple task, they cannot complain about the policy being unfair and the policy cannot be blamed.
Prominent behavioral economist Dan Ariely posits that it is laziness and habit of selecting the default option that make the opt-out system so successful.
Still, opt-in regulations face psychological barriers. A 2012 study by Cornell University and Stanford University researchers revealed that with an opt-in policy, donations seem like an act of “exceptional altruism.”
The study says, “When citizens are presumed by the default option not to be organ donors, organ donation is seen as something noteworthy and elective, and not something one simply does.”
More people should see organ donation as a civic duty similar to the right to vote and completing jury duty. Thousands of people do not have time to wait for anyone to be exceptional and donate willingly.