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The author declares that he has no competing interests.
The number of deceased donor organ donations in Israel is lower than average when compared to other Western World countries. To address the organ gap, the 2008 Organ Transplantation Law provides new interventions, including important incentives to donors (and their families). The most notable of these was granting priority to registered donors (i.e., people on the waiting list who signed a donor card). The current study presents the normative arguments as well as the first documentation of public attitudes in Israel towards another possible incentive – allowing individuals to influence the allocation of their organs by permitting them to designate, to direct their donated organs [DD] to other registered donors, instead of the current allocation based primarily on medical criteria.
A structured phone survey of 695 Israelis was conducted during Feb-March 2012. The sample is representative of the Israeli society in terms of age mix and gender, with adequate representation of the Arab and ultra-orthodox Jewish subgroups.
Among all Israelis, 68% stated a willingness to donate their organs, but only 16% reported to have already signed a donor card. 85% stated their interest in receiving an organ if the need arises. Overall, 64% of respondents felt that DD to a group of others who have registered as donors is justified, and the rate was remarkably higher in the Arab group (84%), and lower in the religious and ultraorthodox Jewish groups (52% and 50% respectively).
The majority of the Israeli public supports organ donation and its proven benefits. Thus, organ recovery policy should be grounded in a strong communitarian strategy as we all stand to benefit from cooperation. However, current legislation and practices are modeled on individual disposition based on an opt-in legal framework. DD allows personal choices of to-be donors that might interfere with social interests, principles, and values such as equal access to care (i.e. organs) or justice. However, based on the result of this survey, the conceptual case of DD to other registered donors should be viewed more favorably (while the details should be addressed in future analyses), as DD is not expected to be rejected by the public at the outset. From a normative perspective, it is possible to support an allocation scheme that allows DD to other registered donors, where individual preferences that promote just sharing of the burden (donating organs) as well as the benefits (receiving an organ) of transplantation medicine are respected. Yet, DD to other registered donors should be understood and portrayed as a transition step towards a more communitarian model, and as a signal of solidarity by sharing organs as a public good rather than as an exercise of a quasi-property right.