The United States has almost 60,000 patients with end-stage renal disease who need a kidney transplant. Every year, almost 4,000 people will die waiting for that transplant.
How can we increase the supply of donor kidneys?
Though some economists suggest a legal organ donation “marketplace,” where kidneys can be legally bought and sold, opponents envision the wealthy buying their way to the front of the line, and the poor resorting to selling their organs.
Another solution is to simply increase the number of people willing to be organ donors. Most of the U.S. uses an explicit consent, or “opt-in,” rule. This means that people have to go out of their way register as organ donors.
Some states use what is called “mandated choice.” When people renew their driver’s license, for instance, they are asked whether or not they wish to be organ donors. Just asking that question can nearly double the donor consent rate. In Illinois, mandated choice has resulted in a 60 percent organ donor sign-up rate, compared with the national rate of 38 percent.
Finally, what if being an organ donor were the default choice? In parts of Europe, it’s those who are not willing to be donors who have to register, or “opt-out.” Countries using this approach have organ donor consent rates approaching 99 percent.
I encourage you to listen and vote in this week’s poll, located both below, and in the upper right column of the blog.