California has a new law creating a live donor registry for kidney transplants and requiring California drivers to say yay or nay on whether they want to be organ donors when they renew their drivers' licenses. The law was passed with the prodding of Steve Jobs who last year had a liver transplant.
The live donor registry is very good. The required declaration is mixed but I hope it works. I see it as follows. The benefit is that if a potential donor has said yes to organ donation then next of kin almost always agree to their wishes so if more people positively affirm that is good. The cost, however, is that now "no" really means "no" and next of kin will presumably agree to that as well. Previously, next of kin might have said yes to non-signatories. Let's use some back of the envelope figures:
100 potential donors
20 signed organ donor cards
80 do not sign but, among these, half the families say yes so 40.
Total: 60 donors.
So with declaration you need more than 60 to agree to be organ donors, i.e. a huge increase in those saying yes. It could happen if what people say on surveys about supporting organ donation is true but I would have been much happier with even a small incentive to sign. How about a free iPhone for signatories? Or at least some more minutes!
See here for more on incentives and organ donation.
Addendum: Nudge blog has some helpful comment–the law appears to be closer to mandated ask than mandated choice.