Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Priority for organ donation in the UK?

Britain's National Health Service is conducting a survey as part of an assessment of possible changes to its methods of acquiring and allocating organs for transplantation.

NHS considers organ donation shakeup

"The survey asks whether the UK should follow Israel's lead and say that those who are on the organ donor register should get priority if they subsequently need a transplant. "It always seemed to me that fairness is quite a fundamental British value but we have never put that in the context of organ donation," Johnson said.

"The question of presumed consent for organ donation is also raised once more. Only the Welsh assembly government has formally adopted this possibility within the UK, and it plans to legislate in 2015 if its formal consultation goes its way.

"The NHSBT survey asks about extending the recently introduced practice by which the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre "nudges" those renewing or updating licences into deciding whether they want to join the donor register to other documents, such as marriage applications or wills. Johnson floated using the new universal credit, the single payment for those seeking work or on low incomes."

The article also speaks of the shortage of deceased donor organs:
"About 1,000 people die in the UK each year because they do not get a transplant, according to NHSBT. Johnson said more people wanted to become donors but the transplant service could not use all the organs they donated. More than 500,000 people die in Britain each year, but only about 3,000 in circumstances where they could realistically become organ donors.
"The reality is you have to die in hospital, on a ventilator, also in the intensive care or emergency department. The number of people dying who are under the age of 75, which is where most of our donors come from, has dropped by about 15% in the last few years. The people who are dying therefore tend to be older, they tend to have more co-morbidity than the rest of the population and, like the rest of the population, they have a tendency to be fatter. Consequently there are a number of people who would like us to use their organs but their organs might not be suitable."


Before we get too excited, note that it's a lot easier to consider changes than to enact them: see my 2008 post on attempts in Britain to move towards presumed consent for organ donation.

Regarding priority for organ donation, Judd Kessler and I have a paper coming out in the August AER:
Kessler, Judd B. and Alvin E. Roth, '' Organ Allocation Policy and the Decision to Donate,'' American Economic Review, forthcoming.

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