How to get more people to donate organs

New York assemblyman Richard Brodsky is trying to pass a law that will change the way we indicate whether we want to donate our organs or not. Right now, we check a box if we want to become organ donors — if Brodsky gets his way, we'd have to check a box if we don't want to donate our organs.

This reminds me of a recent conversation I had with neuroscientist Read Montague, who uses multiple synchronized fMRIs to study social interactions and decision-making, i.e. how people make choices based on how choices are made available and what other people are doing. Here's a snippet from an interview I did with him in Oxford a couple of weeks ago:

When you have a driver's license, you can often designate whether you want to be an organ donor, so if you're lying dead on the highway or a vegetable in the hospital they can decide to harvest your organs. When organ donations are a check box on a form where you opt into it, the rates of opting in are 25-30%. There's an asymmetry here. If you start where the default is to opt out, then the organ donor percentage is 85-90%. We're not sure why, but it's completely different. It's opting in versus opting out; in-group out-group distinctions.

Should laws push for organ donation? [NY Times]