England consent rates for organ donation is around 60% however in Wales it is 94%. Why such a huge difference?
A year ago, Wales changed its organ donation policy. Before the change they had an opt in policy – you had to sign up to be on the organ donation register. They have changed to an opt out policy – if you haven’t specified a decision then you are assumed to have no objection to organ donation. This has had an incredible effect on the number of organ donors. There have been 160 organ transplants in Wales over the past year, of these 39 of them were from the deemed consent policy. That is potentially 39 extra people saved by this policy change. Imagine the number of lives that could be saved if this policy is adopted by the rest of the UK.
Johnson & Goldstein (2003) did research that showed that when the default is not to be an organ donor, 42% signed up to the organ register. When the default was to be an organ donor, 82% of people agreed to be donors. This is a massive difference.
There is a huge difference between the percentage of people registered as organ donors between Germany and Austria. Austria uses an opt-out system and has 99% of people registered whereas Germany has an opt-in policy ad only has 12% of people as organ donors.
Default options are a very useful way to gently influence people’s decisions whilst still preserving people’s freedom of choice.