Wednesday, August 14, 2019

How is the U.S. opt in system of organ donation doing compared to an opt out system? Alex Glazier and Tom Mone in JAMA

Alex Glazier and Tom Mone run, respectively, the big Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) in New England and Southern California.

Success of Opt-In Organ Donation Policy in the United States
Alexandra Glazier, JD, MP1; Thomas Mone, MS
JAMA. Published online August 8, 2019. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.9187

"Over the past 5 years, the United States has experienced a 30% increase in deceased organ donors, from 8269 in 2013 to 10 722 in 2018,1 although the number or organs available for transplant still does not meet the increasing need.
"The US practice of opt-in donation presents 2 opportunities for organ donation. The primary path to donation in the United States is through donor registries and is uniquely successful compared with other countries, with more than 152 million registered donors, representing 54% of the US adult population.2 A registered individual provides legally binding permission for donation at the time of death, and family does not have the right to override this decision. Current US practice is to proceed with a registered donation if medically suitable, even over family objection.3 The ability to move forward based on the donor’s affirmative decision is ethically supported and consistent with autonomy as a central principle in US health care decision-making. It is also in alignment with successfully maximizing opt-in policy and the UAGA state laws. The second path to donation in the United States is surrogate authorization of organ donation from an unregistered individual (ie, who has not registered as an organ donor) at the time of that individual’s death. The successful implementation of US opt-in is thus accomplished by a legal framework that is well-aligned with donation practices.
"Proponents of an opt-out system for the United States may have some misunderstandings about the performance and utility of the current opt-in US system. Requiring an affirmative donation decision through opt-in policies is also aligned with the US cultural emphasis on individual rights and autonomy principles that is not achieved in the opt-out international experience. As identified below, the US opt-in system donation rates routinely exceed those of the best performing opt-out international countries.
"In 2018, the US overall organ donation rate was 38.1 donors per 10 000 deaths, second among reporting countries only to Spain (which has an opt-out donation policy). Six individual US states had rates that were higher than Spain, and US states comprised 43 of the top 50 jurisdictions. Furthermore, in the opt-in jurisdictions, the mean donation rate was 27% higher than rates in opt-out jurisdictions (32.6 vs 25.6 donors per 10 000 deaths, respectively). The data demonstrate that opt-in policies in the United States are associated with higher organ donation rates than some countries with opt-out policies as the legal default.
"If the United States moved to a similar opt-out policy, the percentage of potential donors opting out combined with family objections would need to be quite small to realize any gains in donation performance. There is also the real potential for the donation rate to decline, as evidenced in Wales, which continues to have below-average international levels and most recently in the Netherlands, where an increasing number of people (currently 31%) have opted out.
"The United States has experienced significant growth in deceased organ donors and continues to have one of the best donation rates in the world. Nevertheless, the critical need for organ transplant is not met. International data suggest that the most effective donation authorization strategy for the United States is to build on the current opt-in system that demonstrably works and to increase the number of registered donors from today’s 54% to 75% or higher. Doing so would be an accomplishment that would increase available organs for donation and save thousands of lives.

HT: Alex Chan

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