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J Health Econ. 2006 Jul;25(4):599-620. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

The impact of presumed consent legislation on cadaveric organ donation: a cross-country study.

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Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, United States.


In the U.S., Great Britain and in many other countries, the gap between the demand and the supply of human organs for transplantation is on the rise, despite the efforts of governments and health agencies to promote donor registration. In some countries of continental Europe, however, cadaveric organ procurement is based on the principle of presumed consent. Under presumed consent legislation, a deceased individual is classified as a potential donor in absence of explicit opposition to donation before death. This article analyzes the impact of presumed consent laws on donation rates. For this purpose, we construct a dataset on organ donation rates and potential factors affecting organ donation for 22 countries over a 10-year period. We find that while differences in other determinants of organ donation explain much of the variation in donation rates, after controlling for those determinants presumed consent legislation has a positive and sizeable effect on organ donation rates. We use the panel structure of our dataset to test and reject the hypothesis that unmeasured determinants of organ donation rates confound our empirical results.

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