NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 31, 2006

An "organ insurgency" is occurring across America as thousands have begun using private efforts to increase their chances of receiving donor organs, say Lloyd Cohen, a professor at George Mason University School of Law, and David J. Undis, executive director of LifeSharers, an organ donors network.

The organ insurgents are acting because the organ bureaucracy seems to have run out of strategies to reduce the organ shortage:

  • Over 6,000 Americans die every year waiting for transplants, and the shortage continues to get larger with no end in sight.
  • Every year, about 40,000 new names are added to the transplant waiting list.
  • Of the 90,000 Americans now on the national transplant waiting list, about 60 percent will die before they get one.

More and more Americans are taking the search for life-saving organs into their own hands. Some advertise for a directed donation. Others join donation networks such as LifeSharers and

Critics charge that advertisement introduces an unfair advantage because not everybody who needs a transplant can afford to advertise. They say this brings non-medical considerations into the organ allocation system. Cohen and Undis argue that these complaints are absurd for two reasons:

  • People already use their financial resources in countless ways to improve the health of their family members.
  • Non-medical considerations such as money, race, age, geography, and time spent waiting are used now to decide who gets available organs.

Cohen and Undis recommend giving organs first to registered organ donors. They argue that is this simple change was implemented as national policy, millions of people would register and we would make a big dent in the organ shortage.

Source: Lloyd Cohen and David J. Undis, "Organ Insurgents vs. Organ Bureaucrats,", January 2, 2005.

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