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Monday, March 27, 2006

Increasing Organ Donations

In a recent Second Circuit decision, Colavito v. New York Organ Donor Network, the court certified several questions to the New York Court of Appeals concerning, among other things, whether state statutes vest "the intended recipient of a directed organ donation with rights that can be vindicated in a private party's lawsuit." (See here for more).   

Typically, one directs an organ donation by specifying a particular individual who should receive a particular bodily organ.  The provisions of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act allowing for directed donation have also been used to create an incentivized pool of organ donors.  Here is a brief description of how LifeSharers incentivizes donation through a kind of mutual insurance:

LifeSharers is a non-profit voluntary network of organ donors.  LifeSharers members promise to donate upon their death, and they give fellow members first access to their organs.  As LifeSharers members, you and your loved ones will have access to organs that otherwise may not be available to you.  As the LifeSharers network grows, more and more organs may become available to you -- if you are a member. . . .

By joining LifeSharers you will also make the organ transplant system fairer by helping registered organ donors get their fair share of organs.  Most organs transplanted in the United States go to people who have not agreed to donate their own organs when they die.  That's not fair, and it's one of the reasons there is such a large organ shortage.

By joining LifeSharers you will help reduce the deadly organ shortage.  By offering your organs first to other organ donors you create an incentive for non-donors to become donors.  As more people register as organ donors, fewer people will die waiting for transplants.

You may not know that April is "Donate Life Month".  Whether you need such excuses or not, I encourage you to become an organ donor and to explore the LifeSharers website.  And here's my take on how to reduce the crushing shortage of organs available for transplant.

Posted by Adam Kolber on March 27, 2006 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Adam,

We discussed this organization a bit at PB last year:

http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2005/05/lifesharers.html.

I was skeptical then.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Mar 27, 2006 1:20:38 PM

Ethan,
Thanks for the pointer! In the article I link to above, I advocate a fairly modest change in organ donation policy: we should modify current organ allocation formulas to give some priority to those who have registered to donate. This addresses your concerns to a limited extent: (1) Those who want priority must register to donate but need not do so through an "arbitrary" organization; (2) An approach that uses the existing government-related entities to distribute organs in a prioritized fashion may, for political reasons, stand a better chance of enforcing the donation preferences made by the recently deceased.

Details aside, however, not only does LifeSharers have its "heart . . . in the right place," it may actually help policymakers wake up to the folly of building our organ donation policy on a system of altruism that leads to perhaps thousands of unnecessary deaths each year in the US.

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Mar 27, 2006 5:17:51 PM

If UNOS, which runs the national organ allocation system, adopted the LifeSharers approach it would save thousands of lives every year.

What argument against this is worth those lives?

Dave Undis
Executive Director
LifeSharers

Posted by: David J. Undis | Mar 27, 2006 8:48:00 PM

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