The Information: Organ donation by country

Spain had the highest transplant rate in the world in 2008

Doctors around the world are eager to increase the number of organ donations. One obvious strategy is to pass legislation that assumes that citizens are happy to donate organs unless they explicitly refuse. Austria, for example, has such an “opt out” system and in 2002, 99.98 per cent of the population were potential organ donors. By contrast, Denmark has an “opt in” system, under which citizens have to volunteer, and in 2002 only 4.25 per cent of the population had signed up. In 2008, Austria had a deceased organ transplant rate of 20.6 per million people (pmp), much higher than Denmark’s, at 11.8pmp.

An overall comparison of transplant rates, however, produces a more complicated picture. Like Austria, Poland has an opt-out system, but, in 2008, a transplant rate of only 11.2pmp. The US has an opt-in system, and a rate of 26.3pmp. So legislation helps, but does not decide everything. Rafael Matesanz, director of the Spanish National Transplant Organisation, argues that funding and regional organisation are, if anything, more important. Spain has a rate of 34.2pmp, the highest in the world.

Sources: Science, 2003; Newsletter Transplant, 2009; “The potential impact of an opt-out system for organ donation in the UK”, Department of Health, 2008; Organ donor registers, 2006

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

More on this topic

Suggestions below based on FT Magazine

Five of the best: Restaurants in Aarhus

From traditional open-faced sandwiches to scallops with pickled beach herbs, James Clasper finds Denmark’s second city a tasty and affordable alternative to Copenhagen

Why sherry needs more love

‘Poor little sherry was relatively insignificant compared with the lucrative, globally famous spirits brands’

The sharing dogonomy

‘Dog-sitting is not new but the idea of a technology-driven, part-time pet economy seems intriguing’