How many transplantable organs are wasted each year?

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.

In a simple sense, this would work. But there are WAY too many avenues of abuse for something like that. You want a used car salesman talking you out of a kidney?

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?)

Why should it be treated as the default position that a person’s organs are public property that can be harvested upon death unless they specifically ask you not to do so?

Because that would result in more organs available for transplant and therefore more lives saved while still respecting the wishes of those who don’t want to donate.

Even where people opt in, the relative often override their wishes.

Not worth it. No person’s organs should be harvested without their explicit consent no matter how many lives it would save.

You’re wrong. Lives are more important than the wishes of the dead.

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.

Not really something we can debate. It’s a question of values.

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.

NM. (This is turning into GD, and I don’t think I want to help do that.)

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.

You’re defining people as property.

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This thread has taken a definite left turn into GD territory. Hopefully the factual part of this has been answered to the OP’s satisfaction. Any further factual information is of course still welcome.

Moving thread from GQ to GD.

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.

It could have happened. But that’s a tiny worry, and certainly the fact that you didnt opt out wont make much of a difference.

We got way too many folks committing suicide as it is. This idea would push a lot more over the edge.