Opt-in or Opt-out Organ Donation

There are too many people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in the United States and not enough organ donors available to give people a second chance at life.

Opt In Organ Donation

As true as this is, many countries and states have entered the controversial opt-in vs. opt-out organ donor debate and no matter what side they choose, it seems that there will be many unhappy people.

The civil liberty of allowing a person to choose what happens to their body after they die has been the center of many heated debates. Some claim that there are religious implications behind their decision not to become an organ donor and there are others that believe that if they can’t take their organs to heaven, then why not share the gift of life.

Whatever the reason behind an individual’s belief on organ donation and transplantation, it is a personal choice. With that being said though, many families are not aware of their beloved’s decision to donate his or her organs before they are no longer able to voice their wishes.

So that begs the question – should the government step in and organize the process for conveying one’s wishes to donate or not donate his or her organs to another human being? Should there be a either a system for individuals to opt-in or opt-out of organ donation so that there is no confusion in the end?

Opt-in vs. Opt-out Legislation

There are two main systems for voluntary systems “opt in” (everyone who has not given consent is not a donor) and “opt out” (everyone who has not refused is a donor). In some systems, family members may be required to give consent or refusal, or may veto a potential recovery even if the donor has consented.

Under United States law, the regulation of organ donation is left to states within the limitations of the federal National Organ Transplant Act of 1984. Each state’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act seeks to streamline the process and standardize the rules among the various states. Many states have sought to encourage the donations to be made by allowing the consent to be noted on the driver’s license. Donor registries allow for a central information center for an individuals wish to be a donor. Still, it remains a pure consent system rather than an extended consent system or even a dissent opt-out system. (Organ Donation – Wikipedia)

The controversy is clear and speaking as a wife of a double lung transplant recipient, I must admit that even I am sometimes on the fence about this. The government was not designed to be involved in such personal human decisions. We don’t need the government to help us in expressing our wishes to become an organ donor – we just need to make sure to let everyone know.

For so many years, we have been placing orange organ donor stickers on our driver’s license. This opt-in system has worked very well because it creates a bridge that hospitals can use to open the conversation about organ donation with the families upon their loved one’s death. Wisconsin has taken this one step further with their new website YesIWillWisconsin.org. This system works directly with the Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure that your voice and choice are heard. Just like the orange organ donor sticker, it puts control in your hands and helps the grieving family at a very painful time during their lives.

So, if I had to choose either opt-in or opt-out organ donation registration, I would have to choose the former. It keeps you in control of your decision to become an organ donor and solidifies your decision to your family. Your family would be going through enough without having to make this decision on their own – make sure your voice is heard through an opt-in system and by telling your family your wishes today.

What are your thoughts on the opt-in vs. opt-out organ donation registration debate? How do you think either would impact those waiting for the miracle of a second chance at life?

Image courtesy of The Archer News.

After her husband received a double-lung (bilateral) transplant in 2004, Shannon founded the Angel Cove Organ Donation Awareness Shop, which provides awareness t-shirts and gifts products for transplant recipients, living organ donors and donor families - giving 100% of the profits to help heart and lung transplant recipients with medical costs. Shannon lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her wonderful husband and two chocolate Labrador Retrievers.

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