Pestering someone with the same question over and over again doesn’t usually get you what you want. But with organ donation, asking repetitively might just be the key to increasing the number of much-needed organ donors.
According to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, providing more information and opportunities for people to become organ donors could boost registrations dramatically.
This increase in donors is needed more than ever. Each day, 18 people die while waiting for a transplant organ to become available. The waiting list is over 123,000 people deep but there were only about 29,000 organ transplants last year.
The new findings are based on a survey of Massachusetts drivers, which The Washington Post’s Jason Millman describes in One Way To Boost Organ Donations: Just Keep Asking. From the article:
Researchers surveyed 368 people with a Massachusetts driver’s license or ID card, including 156 people (42.4 percent) who were already registered organ donors. Of those who weren’t registered donors, 61 people in the study decided to sign up after researchers presented them with the chance to update their status. Just two people who had been registered donors asked to remove themselves from the registry.
“Put simply, asking again for organ donation generates more donors,” wrote Judd Kessler of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Stanford University’s Alvin Roth. They said this suggests that policymakers should look for more opportunities to keep asking this question, like on income tax forms, as the researchers said some states are considering.
Asking more than once may work for a number of reasons. Millman explains:
People may have missed the opportunity to register the first time; or, repeat requests may signal the importance of organ donation, Kessler and Roth write. The “guilt factor” may also kick in after repeat requests. And there’s also the chance that people learned something that changed their minds. On that final point, Kessler and Roth found that just informing non-donors about what organs they could donate made them more willing to register.
So, here we go. Let’s test out this strategy and see if it works. Continue reading