Around 7,000 Americans die each year while waiting for an organ transplant — to put things in perspective, the median wait for a kidney is about four years. People who die waiting do so because there aren’t enough donors, not because of medical technology. The vast majority of organs transplanted come from deceased donors who tick off that “donor” box at the D.M.V., but fewer than half of adult Americans sign up, which medical experts say is because people don’t like thinking about death while standing in line to renew their license.
Jeff Jarvis illustrates the peer pressure that Facebook provides:
Imagine tomorrow, God forbid, one of your Facebook friends needs a kidney. There’s a tool staring you in the face asking you to get tested for a match. Do you join that lottery, getting tested and hoping to fail (or win)? Do you risk being shunned by your community if you don’t? Do you join in shunning others if they don’t?
Under presumed consent legislation, a deceased individual is classified as a possible donor unless he or she explicitly objects prior to death. Unlike the United States, where individuals have to opt into organ donation, in most of continental Europe, citizens must opt out. … Organ donation rates are 25 to 30 percent higher in presumed consent countries, according to a 2005 paper in the Journal of Health Economics. When Belgium instituted a presumed consent law in 1985, the number of organ donors nearly doubled within two years.