AP Lang- G
9 April 2008
Are You Opt-in or Opt-out?
Great advances in the science of organ transplantation have made it possible for many lives to be saved from conditions that would have otherwise been considered fatal. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 60 and in good general health can be organ donors. Thanks to these scientific advances, living donors are now able to donate entire kidneys and portions of other regenerative organs such as the intestine, liver, lung, and pancreas. Full portions of these organs as well as others, such as bones, corneas, hearts, and tendons can be harvested from donors shortly after the declaration of death. Unfortunately, too few donors exist to meet the demand for these organs. Currently over 98,000 people in the United States are on the organ waiting list (Donate Life America). Even more appalling, an estimated eighteen American people die each day waiting for transplants because of the shortage of donated organs (Medline Plus). The detrimental outcome upon U.S. citizens due to low organ donation is immense compared to that of Austria, France and Spain. Austria has the shortest organ waiting list of the world’s countries, with twenty-nine donors per one million inhabitants, whereas America has six donors per one million inhabitants (Donate Life America). These severe statistics prompt the question, why is the rate of organ donation in the United States, seemingly the most medically advanced nation worldwide, so low? The answer to this serious question lies within the investigation of alternate systems to promote organ donation, thereby increasing the number of transplant recipients. The drastic shortage of organ donors in the U.S. is mainly a result of America’s opt-in system. In America, the states maintain the regulation of organ donations. Federal law requires that the donor make an affirmative statement during his or her lifetime that he or she is willing to be an organ donor (Donate Life America). Many states encourage donations by allowing the consent to be noted on the driver’s license. Another alternative is expressed notification to one’s family or doctor that he or she wishes to be an organ donor. Since an explicit consent by the individual is required, the opt-in system is considered a “pure consent system” (Matesanz). Individuals in America are free to make decisions with respect to their own morals and values. Under the opt-in system, the legal and medical communities are obligated to respect the individual’s decision. Americans value the feature of the opt-in system, which allows them to retain full control of one’s body, while requiring the respect of their consent to donate. While esteeming one’s individual decision, the opt-in system continues to foster the severe shortage of organ donors. Most Americans approve of organ donation and truly admire the thought of giving another the gift of life, but oddly enough only thirty-one percent of Americans appear on lists for organ donation (Friedman). People choose not to become organ donors for many reasons. Some are fearful that medical professionals will not work diligently to save their lives if they are organ donors. Such fear originates from the law of supply and demand; serious organ shortages increase the value of donated organs. Others may disapprove of too quickly harvesting organs upon brain death. Although the law and medical standards are clear that death occurs when the brain ceases to function, much debate over this concept among society at large in recent years persists. Today, life support technology artificially preserves the body’s respiration and circulation long after the brain stops functioning. Grieving loved ones cling to hope that life still exists. The notion of harvesting a loved one’s organs while still on life support is particularly disturbing. Fear, disapproval, and grief associated with the opt-in system contribute to the failure of volunteer organ...
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