225 Media Production – News Report Project – America’s‘Opt In’ Policies for Organ and Tissue Donation

Part I: News Report Summary

In the United States, the shortage of organs is a serious problem. On average 18 people die every day because they could not get the organ they need, this number translates into thousands of deaths every year. There are approximately over 122, 000 people waiting for a donated organ in order for them to get a transplant, with most of them being on the waitlist for about three to five years, and with kidneys being the most needed. Several factors contribute to this shortage of organs and donors, such as the high number of obese people in the U.S., which disqualifies them from donating, and most prominently the lack of significantly supportive policy to promote increased organ donation.

In countries with ‘opt out ’organ donation policies, where organ donation is the default option when people die, organ donation ranks in the 90th percentile while in countries with ‘opt in’ organ donation policies, organ donation ranks below the 20th percentile. ‘Opt out ’policies make it the default option to donate one’s organs upon death; presuming consent, and if one does not want to, then they are required to explicitly make it known. On the other hand, ‘opt in’ policies require that people explicitly give consent to donate their organs in the event of death while they are still alive. Germany and the U.S. are examples of countries with ‘opt in’ policy and a donor rate of 12% and 40% respectively, while Austria  an example of a country with ‘opt out’ policy and a donor rate of 99%.

According to the American Transplant Foundation, the ‘opt in’system is least effective and is often faced with the major challenge of a deceased person refusing to give consent in the event of death of the individual who had opted in while still alive. In the U.S. about 22 deceased donors per million registered people actually donate their organs. In light of this, one of the goals of the several legistlative initiatives by the America Transplant Foundation is to, “Clarify the role of a deceased organ donor’s family when it comes to family veto rights regarding the recovery of organs from the donor.”According Richard Thaler; a professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, teaching economics and behavioral science, “It shouldn’t matter whether you use an opt-in or opt-out system. So long as the costs of registering as a donor or a nondonor are low, the results ahould be similar.”

One sure way to increase the donation of organs is to change the U.S. policies relating to organ donating making it automatic that when people die their organs are donated to those scheduled for a transplant. Be that as it may, there are many other initiatives that could be adopted to enhance the effectiveness of the ‘opt in’ policy in the U.S. Forinstance, the state of Illinois has been using the concept of ‘mandated choice’ since 2006, which requires anyone renewing their driver’s license to indicate whether or not they would like to be a donor. Intent is considered legally and this makes for a winning combination of the ‘opt in’ system and the ‘mandated choice’ concept, resulting in higher donation rates.

Part II: Reflection

In the process of preparing this news report, I have learned a lot about how a small difference in policy and legislation can have huge impacts on how it impacts the lives of people under the governance of those policies and legislations. In addition to the policy and legislative angle, I learned quite a lot about the organ and tissue donation situation in the United States, both the positive and the negative aspects and how we compare to other nations in Europe. In order to write this news report, I had to find an issue that felt key to the United States as a country and to me as a person, and yet is under reported by the media. After I settled on the issue of organ and tissue donation, I went on a fact-finding mission, highlighting dissenting opinions, failing and thriving aspectsand then distilled it into a concise news summary by presenting the core concepts and how they interact. There were challenges in writing this summary on terms of finding quotes and meeting the word count limit, but I was able to overcome both by sticking only to authoritative figures on the matter and limiting myself to an account of the most informative and balanced aspects of the issue.

Based on this reflection and the integrity with which I wrote this news report, I am confident that the decisions I made were driven purely by the desire to present accurate, fair, and balanced report aimed at informing the audience and empowering them to develop an informed opinion on the matter. Currently, people are required to ‘opt in’ to donating their organs while they are still alive, in my opinion changing this to a default system of donation will most certainly save more lives since there will be an increase in organ donations. This opinion is biased towards the ‘opt in’ system because it has the highest success rate and minimal legislative challenges.

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