Solving the Organ Crisis Ethically
Julian Savulescu and William Isdale
An editorial in the Lancet earlier this month report on the first fall in UK organ transplants in a decade.
Key statistics included that “the number of people who chose or were able to donate their organs in 2014 fell, and that 224 fewer people in the UK received an organ transplant than the year before”
Amongst the factors restricting donations is family consent: “no appreciable rise has occurred in the proportion of families who gave consent to organ retrieval following the death of a relative, which continues to hover “stubbornly below 60%”.
The Lancet also points to inefficiencies in the use of those organs that are donated.
Australia’s #DonateLife week has just been completed, a week dedicated to promoting organ donation, Australia is seeking to improve its own rates, which lag behind the UK, US and other comparable nations. The government is already undertaking a review into the current organ and tissue donation and transplantation programme.
One quote from the Lancet is perhaps timely:
As Rafael Matesanz, Director of Spain’s world-leading Organización Nacional de Trasplantes, recently reminded us, we should “…never blame the population. If people donate less, it must be something we have done wrong””
William Isdale and I recently proposed Three Ethical Ways to Increase Organ Donation: no longer allowing a family veto where a patient has consented; financial incentives to consent; and non financial incentives to consent (such as higher priority as a recipient for those who are on the transplant list).
On August 25, Peter Singer, Neera Bhatia William Isdale, Julian Koplin, and myself will be participating in a public event in Melbourne, Solving the Organ Crisis Ethically, where we will critically discuss the ethics of a range of options available to increase the organ supply in Australia.
There are 1500 people waiting for an organ in Australia. Some of those will die, or become too ill to be an organ recipient, before an organ becomes available. How far should we go to address the organ shortage?