How to Get Enough Transplant Organs

A perpetual problem for those needing transplanted organs is the lack of organs to transplant. There is an obvious obstacle to this: Asking a grieving family to give away spare parts from their just-deceased loved one is hard for doctors to do in addition to the fact that it is done at exactly the time when family members least want to hear it. In the minutes just before or after a death (and it often is a case of minutes) the enormity of what is happening makes people want to shut out everything else, especially things that emphasize the finality of death. And asking for the dying person’s heart, kidneys, liver, etc. does that in a way few other things can.

Some proposals have surfaced from time to time suggesting that people be compensated for organs. Certainly those receiving the organs would be willing to pay in order to live but the whole idea of an organ market (which is alleged to exist in the black market anyway) is so fraught with difficulties that it is a virtual minefield of moral problems. It can make even a cold-blooded economistic capitalist squeamish to think about rich people paying poor ones for body parts not to mention the plot lines of several action-packed horror movies and novels.

So how to get around this problem? The solution would seem to be to ask people for permission to harvest organs (what an unfortunate piece of bad marketing THAT phrase is – “harvest organs”) before their loved ones are dying rather than during or after. This is exactly what the checkoff box on the back of my drivers’ license is supposed to do, but unfortunately not enough people actually check it off to bring the supply of organs anywhere near the demand.

What about giving people an up-front incentive to do so? This could be accomplished by waiving the license fee for anyone willing to check off the organ donation box on their license and sign the necessary permission form. The state would lose some revenue (It costs $40 for a license where I live) but the potential benefits are enormous. I think there are quite a few people who would be willing to sign at the time they get the license whose family members wouldn’t give permission if they died. To sweeten the pot we could even invent a shorter line at the Department of Motor Vehicles just for them. Now THAT would be even more persuasive.