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Changing Illinois Organ Donation

Illinois, Organ Donation, Organs

Black markets exist around the world for a number of different goods and services, namely drugs, prostitution, weaponry, gambling, alcohol and tobacco. These underground markets occur when the quantity demanded of an item far exceeds the quantity supplied.

It should come as no surprise, then, that illegal trade in human organs has become a multi-million dollar worldwide market.

More than 100,000 people in the United States are on an organ waiting list, and there are simply not enough donors to meet the vast demand for organs.

Because it is not included in the United States Constitution, the regulation of organ donation is left up to the states.

Illinois, for example, operates under a first-person consent law, which makes a person’s decision to be an organ donor legally binding.

Illinois residents can visit Lifegoeson.com to sign up on the state’s organ and tissue donor registry. By signing up on the registry, witnesses or family consent is no longer required for donation.

Illinois’ system of organ donation has improved in recent years, but it’s not enough. People die every day waiting for the vital organ transplants they need to survive, and every day working organs are lost with people who never took the initiative to become a donor.

According to Donate Life Illinois, 87 percent of Illinois adults believe registering as an organ donor is the right thing to do, but only 60 percent have done so.

The most reasonable solution to close the gap is a policy of presumed consent.

The policy is already in place in countries like France, Sweden and Spain, and simply means that every citizen is an organ donor unless he or she specifies otherwise.

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Presumed consent would immediately eliminate the thousands (or perhaps millions) of potential donors who are willing but have not taken the step necessary to become an organ donor.

According to Organdonor.gov, more than 8,000 organs were donated, mostly from deceased individuals, from January through July 2009 in the United States.

This number, while impressive, is still far short of the 100,000-plus waiting for a transplant.

Under a policy of presumed consent, individuals who do not want to donate organs for religious or other reasons could simply opt out by entering into a database like the one in place now for donors.

A policy of presumed consent could have side benefits as well. By increasing the supply of organs available for transplants, the profits made by black market dealers would decrease significantly.

Dangerous back-alley transplants would become less common and the thousands of Americans on organ waiting lists could gain control over their lives once again.

A study published by Alberto Abadie of Harvard University and Sebastien Gay of the University of Chicago in 2005 states, in part, “presumed consent legislation has a positive and sizeable effect on organ donation rates.”

The study followed a panel of 22 countries over a 10-year period. It determined, simply, that “countries with presumed consent legislation have higher organ donation rates.”

The authors of the study cite the United States and Great Britain as informed consent countries, while France and Spain are two countries with a presumed consent policy.

While the UK is facing mounting public pressure to move to a presumed-consent system, the United States continues to leave the issue untouched in the face of other problems. But as the economy once again takes center stage, perhaps now is the time to push such a reform through.

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The state of Illinois should take initiative by crafting bi-partisan legislation to develop a new policy for organ donation, setting a standard for other states to follow.

It might be far-fetched to assume the change could happen immediately, as a massive communication campaign would be necessary to inform the public.

Alternatively, people could be grandfathered in, and the policy would be put in effect for residents born after the change is implemented.

Any up-front cost associated with changing Illinois’ organ donation policy would be well justified, with the effects literally living on in people everywhere.

After all, what is the value of a human life?