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U.S. Adults Are Ambivalent About How To Increase Numbers Of Donors

Armen Hareyan's picture


Half of all U.S. adults say they have registered as an organ donor, but only one in four has informed their family that they are willing to be a donor.

Most adults believe it is important to reflect upon the benefits and risks of organ donation when considering whether or not to become a donor. Large majorities believe it is important to consider the ability to save someone's life - including the lives of family members or friends. However, substantial majorities also believe that it is important to consider the type of surgery involved, health risks that might be associated with the procedure, and the reputation of the hospital or doctor that would conduct surgery.

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These are some of the results of an online survey of 2,136 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, conducted by Harris Interactive(R) between May 2 and 4, 2007 for The Wall Street Journal Online's Health Industry Edition.

According to the American Society of Transplantation, more than 95,000 individuals in the U.S. are presently in need of a kidney transplant. Today, patients needing kidney transplants must receive an organ from a family member or friend who is willing to serve as a living donor, or enroll on a waiting list for organs from deceased individuals who had indicated their desire to donate a kidney to an anonymous recipient. Many patients each year have a family member or friend who is willing to donate a kidney, but he or she is not biologically compatible to the person needing the transplant. As a result, many patients remain on the waiting list until another suitable donor can be found.

The Living Kidney Organ Donation Clarification Act -- recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives -- is targeted to this specific group of donors and patients. The bill allows for mismatched donor-recipient pairs to be cross matched thus allowing both patients to receive the kidney donations they need. Most adults -- when the process is described to them -- are uncertain that this would make a difference in their own willingness to become a living kidney donor; but one in five adults say that it would increase their willingness to do so.

Other options have been discussed to increase the rate of living organ donations in the U.S. Some of these include various financial incentives such as cash payments, tax credits or contributions to savings accounts. The public is ambivalent and cautious about these types of proposals; twice as many people strongly oppose such incentives as strongly favor them. Most adults believe that financial incentives would make it easier for wealthier Americans to gain access to needed organ donations while also causing poorer people to resort to organ donation as a means of making money.