Demand for organ transplants continues to outstrip supply. More than 100,000 people are on organ transplant waiting lists in the United States, but last year only 21,000 organs were recovered from about 8,000 deceased donors.
According to University of Montreal ethicist Jurgen De Wispelaere, about 50 percent of all potentially available organs are not used because families refuse consent or can’t be contacted in time or because consent is unclear. To address this problem, De Wispelaere suggests that would-be donors name a “second consenter,” perhaps a spouse or a family friend, who would function as a living advocate for fulfilling the donor’s wishes. A tax credit would give second consenters an incentive to fulfill their commitment.
Not everyone likes De Wispelaere’s idea. In June the Canadian Medical Association Journal quoted William Wall, an Ontario transplant surgeon, warning that any kind of financial reimbursement for organ donation will put us on a slippery slope toward commoditizing organs. Here’s hoping he’s right.