The growing need for organ and tissue transplants has led a number of states to enforce a policy that views a donor's declared intent to be an organ donor as legally binding. This allows health officials to harvest organs without the permission of the next of kin. Legally binding consent is controversial because of concerns that it may anger family members, lead to negative publicity, and discourage potential donors. We use interviews and a pooled time-series data set of cadaveric donation rates in U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of this policy. Our research indicates that enforcement of legally binding consent has marginally increased cadaveric donations while not significantly affecting donor registration. We also find evidence that the effect of the policy might be greater if it were more fully implemented and coordinated with efforts to improve public acceptance and awareness.

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