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Presumed Consent Wouldn't Boost U.S. Organ Donation: Study

FRIDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- It's not likely that a policy of presumed consent would solve the shortage of transplant organs in the United States, according to a new study.

Under such a system, doctors would presume a person's willingness to donate their organs after death unless they explicitly forbid it while they're alive. Those in favor of this type of opt-out system say it would help ease the organ shortage in the United States.

Most people support organ donation but never formally record their wishes and an presumed consent system might ease the burden of decision-making on grieving families, according to proponents.

In the United States, thousands of people die each year waiting for organs and many viable organs are never made available for donation, according to background information in a Johns Hopkins news release.

In this study, Hopkins researchers interviewed transplant experts in 13 European countries with presumed consent legislation. Despite those laws, the process of organ donation did not differ dramatically from the process in countries, such as the United States, which require explicit consent.

The study also found that the United States ranks third among the nations surveyed in rates of organ donation after death. The U.S. rate is 26.3 deceased donors per million population, compared with 34.1 in Spain and 26.7 in Portugal.

The findings appear online in the journal Transplantation.

"Opt-out is not the magic bullet; it will not be the magic answer we have been looking for," study leader Dr. Dorry Segev, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in the release.

"With opt-out the perception becomes, we will take your organs unless you take the time to fill out a form. That's a dangerous perception to have. We only want to use donated organs from people who intended to donate," he said.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about organ donation.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Nov. 29, 2011

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