Grey’s Anatomy may be on to something

Benefits of an opt-out organ-donor system


Tyler White

The pink dot commonly seen on California ID cards.

Samantha Simmons, Opinion Editor

“The human life is made up of choices. Yes or no. Hot or cold. Up or down. Then there are the choices that matter most. To fight or give in. Be a hero or a coward. To live or die. To live. Or die. That’s the important choice, and it’s not always in our hands, but for now it is.” When these words were spoken in the season 6 finale of Grey’s Anatomy, thousands of teenage girls clung to their seats and soaked in every word dripping off Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey’s tongue, but many of them overlooked the importance of the words he was speaking.

Currently in the United States, we are operating what is called an opt-in organ donation system, meaning that all Americans are assumed to be non-donors and must take action to register as a donor before they die, in order for their organs to be used for transplantation purposes. With the familiarity of this system, it can be hard to make the change toward an opt-out system (where everyone is already assumed to be a donor), but the advantages of implementing this law far outweighs the disadvantages.

There’s one negative aspect of the current opt-in system that can’t be overlooked: the death of those waiting for organs. With the opt-in system currently, the United States Department of Health and Human Services states that the number of people on the waiting list has more than tripled in the past ten years alone. There are over 7,000 people that die every year due to lack of an organ donor; that’s approximately 20 people a day. With all of these deaths, it’s amazing that a majority of the United States population are unaware of the problem. Yet tragically, we’ve done nothing to counter all of these deaths.

The answer is right in front of us. Opt-out organ donation isn’t an ancient concept. An example frequently used in the pro-opt-out organ donation debate is that of two opt-out organ donation centers in Belgium–one in Leuven and one in Antwerp. According to research conducted by Stanford, once they switched to presumed consent, their organ donation rates went from 15 to 60 percent. This idea began spreading rapidly throughout Europe not too long ago, and it has already affected saved many human lives.

In the same report, Stanford states that once Austria switched to presumed consent, their organ donation rates quadrupled– almost to the point where the number of people on the waiting list matched the number of human surgeries. You do not even need to be in danger of a failing organ, just the act of implementing this law can benefit every single person living in the United States. According to Spain, the largest opt-out organ donation system in the world, their ten thousand rental transplants saves them approximately 21 million dollars every single year. Not only does this policy save human lives, but we will also be saving financial resources which can then be put toward other advances in medical research.

Hopefully no one reading this is in the midst of the emotional turmoils that death brings, but somewhere down the road either you or a loved one will be in danger of losing a life. By implementing this law, many people faced with a loved one’s tragic accident might simply have to say “see you after surgery.”

That’s a lot better than “goodbye.”