Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saving lives in spite of elite opinion

Free markets for organs would save lives but the high-minded among us would never stand for that. So we have dumb laws that kill. The high-minded have blood on their hands.

David Undis has found a clever way to get around our laws and yet incentivize would-be donors. He has created LifeSharers. His recent piece in the Baltimore Sun explains it best. The high-minded are no match for clever people.

Are you a registered organ donor? If so, you should get a
break. But instead you're getting the shaft.

Now registered organ donors around the United States are
uniting to get fair treatment.
If you've agreed to donate your organs when
you die, your generosity can save lives.
Last year in the United States,
about 22,000 people received organs transplanted from deceased donors.

But registered organ donors who need transplants are treated
no better than people who have declined to donate their organs when they die. As
a result, every year, thousands of registered organ donors die waiting for
transplants when the organs that could have saved their lives are given to

LifeSharers is an organization that seeks to rectify the
situation by giving preference to organ donors. Not only would this make the
system fairer, but the effect of moving donors to the front of the line would be
to increase the number of donated organs available for everyone.

Keep in mind that the large and growing shortage of organs
in the United States is really a shortage of donors. About 8,000 Americans die
every year because there aren't enough organs for everyone who needs one. But
every year, Americans bury or cremate countless transplantable organs.

Tremendous efforts have been made to persuade Americans to
stop throwing away organs that could save their neighbors' lives. Charitable
organizations and the federal government have spent hundreds of millions of
dollars educating everyone on the need for more organ donors. State governments
have made signing up to become an organ donor as easy as checking a box on a
driver's license. Newspapers and television stations have run countless stories
about the organ shortage, and radio stations have broadcast countless public
service announcements.

These efforts have not stopped the organ shortage from getting
bigger and bigger. It's time to try something new.

Let's move registered organ donors to the front of the
transplant waiting list, and let's move people who won't donate to the back. If
the United Network for Organ Sharing, which operates the national organ
allocation system, adopted this policy, it would save thousands of lives every
year because just about everybody would sign up to be a donor. Very few people
would choose to put themselves at the back of the waiting list. After all, there
are already more than 96,000 people on the list, and more than half of them will
die before they get a transplant.

What about people who can't donate their organs? Well, all
Americans can offer to donate their organs when they die - no matter what their
health status is. Nobody knows today whose organs will be transplantable
tomorrow. Surgeons transplant many organs that they would have rejected just a
few years ago.

But shouldn't organs be given first to the people who need
them the most? Not if these people aren't willing to donate their own organs. If
people are unwilling to save their neighbors' lives, should we really elevate
their needs above everyone else's? Besides, moving nondonors to the back of the
waiting list could increase the supply of organs so much that even nondonors
would get organs.

LifeSharers members agree to donate their organs when they
die. They also agree to offer them first to other members, if any member needs
them, before offering them to others. This is done through directed donation,
which is legal under federal law and in all 50 states. There is no age limit,
and parents can enroll their minor children. LifeSharers has more than 9,200
members and has doubled its membership in the last year.

Even people already registered as organ donors have reason to
join LifeSharers. Members increase their chances of getting a transplant if they
ever need one. They also help make organ allocation fairer. Perhaps most
important, by offering their organs first to other organ donors, they give
everyone a good reason to stop throwing away organs that could save their
neighbors' lives.