Presumed Consent and Organ Donation

Alex Tabarrok discusses defaults and organ donation:

Families often don’t know what their loves ones would have wanted because many people don’t sign their organ donor cards.

In fact, the way presumed consent actually works is not by overriding the wishes of the family it’s by making the wishes of the potential donor more clearly known to her family. In most presumed consent countries the family still has the ultimate say in practice because what doctor is going to want to go against the wishes of the family in a time of grief? Instead, presumed consent increases the probability that families say yes by changing their background information from my loved one didn’t opt-in to my loved one didn’t opt-out.

We discussed this topic the other day here, but Alex covers it in more depth—and includes a graph! As we discussed, the actual rates of organ donation are nowhere 99% or even 10% but actually on the order of 10 per million and sometimes much less.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.