Should organ donation be mandatory?
- According to the United Network of Organ Sharing, the following organs and tissues can be donated: 'heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone, nerve and heart valves.'
- Organ donation is decided once a willing patient is declared dead by doctors. And according to the Mayo Clinic, 'people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests (at no charge to their families) to determine that they're truly dead than are those who haven't agreed to organ donation.'
- Thirty-nine thousand organ transplants were performed in the US in 2020.
- The most needed and most commonly transplanted organ is the kidneys.
The shift to mandatory organ donation may help achieve what volunteer programs haven’t been able to--bridge the gap between organ supply and demand.
The Health Resources and Services Administration reports that only 60% of US adults actually sign up as donors, despite 90% of Americans supporting the idea of it. As a result, over 109,000 individuals are on the national transplant list. This number further increases every nine minutes.
With an opt-out mandatory organ donation system in place, every single donor could save eight people, improve the lives of up to 60, and give the gift of sight to two people. A study by the University of Michigan further shows that such a system can reduce waitlist removals by 52% and reduce deaths by 3-10%.
Another way mandatory organ donation saves lives is by enriching scientific research. Human tissues are invaluable as they help scientists understand how the human body works and reacts to different drugs. Therefore, non-transplantable organs can be used for the advancement of medical care.
Aside from helping people and scientific research, an opt-out system could also prevent and possibly end illegal body harvesting. According to one USA Today report, between 1987 and 2006, $6 million was spent on illegally sold body parts. These parts were procured by organ brokers and doctors alike, sometimes from individuals murdered specifically for their organs.
Therefore, the introduction of mandatory organ donation may prove to be an important step to help both current and future patients. With most religions not opposed to this lifesaving practice, all that’s left is to effectively educate people and establish the necessary policies and systems to incentivize potential donors.
While organ donation is a hugely positive act that everyone able to should consider doing, the government has no right to make it mandatory. We are not livestock that the government owns and can harvest pieces and parts from as needed. We belong to ourselves and our families, and that's who makes those decisions--not the government and its bureaucrats. Indeed, it would be dangerous to allow them such power. After all, the government doesn't always make the right choices.
Even in the medical industry, there is a disparity that favors the wealthy over the poor. Mandatory organ donation leaves the field wide open for conflict and corruption. Reasonable people can disagree on when it's time to pull the plug. Indeed, people have been in comas for years and come back. It's not right to set up a situation where people can be pressured into making decisions because somebody else is waiting for their loved one's organs.
As a nation, we are still dealing with healthcare disparities in access and quality. We must not set up situations where the poor or uninsured may not have their health needs met or are pressured into making decisions based on some wealthy person needing their organs for him/herself or a family member. Needing an organ can make people desperate, willing to do or pay whatever it takes.
While we all want to believe that our healthcare system and its related regulatory and bureaucratic systems operate in an equal, fair manner, that simply isn't true. Usurping our fundamental rights to our own bodies--my body, my choice, as the saying goes--is innately wrong and cannot be allowed.