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Tuesday 22nd May 2018

An American view of organ donation

9th December 2008

Sebastien Gay from the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago looks at the issue of organ donation.


The decision in England against switching from informed consent to presumed consent for organ donations could still actually lead to more organ donations.

Some studies have shown a positive effect of presumed consent on organ donations but it is not easy to make that "leap of faith" and see such a change of legislation increase donations.

Presumed consent countries rely on the deceased person being a donor by default but where a person does not express a preference, the family has to make the choice. There is every reason that may lead to more donations.

Spain is held up as an example of a successful presumed consent system but that is because of its successful network of organ coordinators who identify potential transplant organs.

While a market for buying and selling organs would result in the existence of an equilibrium price for living and cadaveric donors, in England the solution needs more than just legislation.

It is important that the population understands what the complete benefits will be.

The £4.5m awareness campaign in England is a positive step but the country also needs organ coordinators to produce a steady and permanent increase in organ donations.

People need to take responsibility for organ donation, but the existence of a registry that collects people's preferences on organ donations is also needed. Together, that would lead to a much needed spike in donor organs.


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