Some people explicitly elect not to donate their organs. OK, fine, it’s your body.
Some people explicitly elect to do so; they’ve got a card in their wallets, and they’ve informed their friends/family. If they die in the correct way, then that’s a win for people who are in need of organs.
In between are the people who kind of thought about it, and are generally in favor of it, but never took any concrete actions to ensure it happens. Of this group, some die in a way that makes organ donation physically possible; of that very small “donation-possible” group, some have family members who can be contacted in time AND choose to allow organ donation, and the rest can’t be donated because explicit permission could not be obtained
Question: overall, how many viable donor organs are wasted each year that could instead be used if we switched to an “opt-out” permission system instead of the current “opt-in” system?
Rather than an “opt out” system, a better system would be one where you could sell your organs voluntarily. A whole lot of people would be happy to trade their redundant kidney for a few grand in cash. And a lot of people with no kidneys would be happy to fork over the few grand. Win-win! Unfortunately, this is illegal.
Really sorry to post this link in another language, but it was one I knew existed. It’s a map of (a bit of) Europe, showing the differences between countries and which countries are opt-in and which are opt-out.
Green countries are opt-out, pink countries are opt-in.
In the yellow circles, we see number of donors (as it actually panned out) per million inhabitants.
The numbers in the pink opt-in countries are quite a bit lower than in the green opt-out countries. Quickly adding them up to get an average I get about 21 donors per million for opt-out countries, and 13.7 for opt-in countries. (I didn’t count the one that says 6, it looks like it might be Luxembourg and I doubt it’s representative - maybe they have very few car crashes or something?)
One’s body is the single most intimate and personal object one can ever own, and that doesn’t stop being the case just because they’re dying. Nobody has the right to anyone else’s organs if they haven’t explicitly consented to it.
Dead people cannot own property. They can direct the use of property they used to own through wills, but in the absence of a clear declaration of will, the state provides defaults. This can and should apply to organs as much as to other types of property. We don’t insist that people are buried with their cash and cars if they don’t explicitly will them to others.
Thanks for the stats. So the opt-in/opt-out delta for Europe is about 7 donors per million. In the US, that would extrapolate out to about 2254 donors nationwide per year. I knew a lot of organs and tissues could be transplanted, but the list is longer than I imagined. Assuming all of a donor’s organs tissues are viable for transplantation, and assuming demand is in excess of the potential supply, it seems a single donor could save half a dozen lives (so, 13,000+ lives per year in the US) and improve quality of life for far more than that.
Other cultures have taken different positions on this (pharaohs buried with treasure, Chinese emperors, etc.). Grave robbing used to be a significant crime in Europe, which is only possible if there’s things in a grave worth stealing (besides the bodies themselves, I mean). I’d say “dead people can’t own property” is not a definitive factor.
But the problem is when is a person dead? We have a few cases were a “dead” person woke up while being prepared for organ donation.
In at least one state they can start preparing you before you’re declared dead or before they get permission to take the organs. At at least one hospital they infuse potential donors with a cocktail of organ-preserving drugs even before these patients dies.
Given that doctors are human, and humans make mistakes, and we have proof that they have made mistakes and declared people dead who were very much alive, the odds are doctors have killed someone for their organs.