February 20, 2024

Incentivising family consent for organ donation

Doctors and economists are always searching for ways to make more organs available for transplant. With a market in organs off the table in most countries, what incentives should be created to persuade people to donate their own or to approve donations by relatives?

In an article in the journal Review of Behavioural Economics, Vinh Pham, of Waseda University, in Japan, argues that discounts on funeral services could increase organ supply.

Pham found that funeral aids, when presented as gifts to the fami8ly, were regarded as more “ethical” than direct payments in all criteria, such as honouring the deceased donor or avoiding commodification of organs. Paying for a full funeral service boosted the willingness of the family to consent to organ donation by 8.5%. Pham says that this implies that an increase of more than 1,000 donors annually in the United States.

The level of willingness is related to how the funeral aids are presented. Pham found that people were more willing if they were offered a “full funeral service” without revealing its value, rather than a dollar donation towards the cost of funeral expenses.