By Thomas Jasinski Jr.
Once again, I stand with France.
On Jan. 1, France enacted a law that states that all citizens will automatically become organ donors unless they opt out.
To the 19,000 French waiting for organ transplants, this is a life or death game changer. While 80 percent of the French population favors organ donation, only 40 percent of family members actually follow through with their loved ones’ wishes to donate their organs. These statistics are strikingly similar to those in the United States, where over 90 percent of the population is in favor of organ donation, yet only 52 percent are registered organ donors.
France has joined Spain, Austria, Wales and other “opt-out” European countries to avoid the emotional turmoil that comes with following through with loved ones’ wishes. More than 90 percent of people maintain their commitment to donation in “opt-in” nations such as Italy, Germany and Croatia, but the 90 percent that remain committed are from a pool of no more than 35 percent of the population that has registered.
I am a double organ transplant recipient, having received a kidney from a living donor and a pancreas from a deceased donor.
There are over 120,000 people in the United States in need of organs. Over 8,000 people die in this country every year because the current registration process is not keeping pace with the growing demand. In New York State alone approximately 10,000 of our friends and neighbors are waiting and nearly 1,000 of them will either die while waiting for organs that are not available or become too ill to remain viable candidates for transplant.
We can do better.
We must do better.
Did France go too far? In my humble opinion I say no, as long as the opportunity to “opt-out” exists.
Statistics show that as the number of registered donors increases, the number of transplants increases. Similarly, in 2014 the Texas/Oklahoma region increased its registration rate by 19 percent, which led to 10 percent more transplants.
The number of people in need is growing quickly; the waiting list for organs in the United States has grown from approximately 113,000 in 2010 to over 120,000 today.
All options should be explored, and the public needs to become aware of the dire need. Living donations are trending upward, but more people need to understand that their actions can save lives.
My premise is that the general population does not know the dire need that exists, particularly in New York, which remains last in organ donor registration nationally.
If more people knew, would they step up and address the need in whatever fashion they were comfortable with?
So, is forcing people to “opt-out” the way to save thousands of lives?
Who can say? But, once again, I stand with France!
Thomas Jasinski Jr. is founder and executive director of one8fifty.org.