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We Should Be Able to Reduce the Wait-List to Death

Filed in Research News
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Eric Johnson and Dan Goldstein have voiced an opinion on defaults as they relate to organ donation in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Your Dec. 17 editorial “Wait-Listed to Death” fails to mention an alternative to paying organ donors. This alternative, common in Europe, eliminates costs while producing an appreciable increase in transplanted organs: Simply change the national default, so that people are in the organ donor pool by default, instead of out of it. Since most Americans support organ donation, why place the burden of opting in on the majority?

An enlightened view would ask only the minority who does not wish to donate to opt out.

Academic studies, including our research, show that changing the default produces a significant increase in life-saving transplantation operations. We do not object to Sen. Arlen Specter’s proposal for reimbursing donors for expenses. But a simple change, consistent with the beliefs of the majority of people, would also prevent unnecessary deaths and let those who would rather not donate easily state their preference.

Eric J. Johnson
Columbia Business School
Columbia University
New York

Daniel G. Goldstein
London Business School

(*) There’s nothing inherently Canadian about this post, but Decision Science News is generally fond of Canada and its vintage posters.


  1. Emily says:

    Hey Dan,

    Cheers on DS. Really good postings you have up. I Like the genuine concentration you have on ethics. So I am a Masters student in the Netherlands but I’m originally from Seattle.

    My thesis is a combination of the technical hydraulic engineering I have been trained in…. and human sociology which so many intervention projects have ignored. You as well seem equally as interested and concerned in the health of societies as in their economic decisions. Speaking to some people has made me aware that the everything can be seen as economic decisions…but I personally prefer not to do that.

    So…the comment. Your R tutorials are absolutely great…the only drawback is there are only two…Don’t know if you have gotten other positive feedback on them, but in my search and self-education I have found several references to them. I have them open, running or paused while I am working in my R console.

    So just to let you know. We like them, We are using them, and We are waiting for more.


    December 29, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  2. Ariely on Decision Making at TED | Life Science Articles says:

    […] the bit on organ donation at the five minute mark, it’s another favorite topic here at […]

    July 16, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

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