Organ donated 'nudge' for drivers in new DVLA process

Kidneys in jars Less than a third of people are registered as organ donors

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Drivers will have to state whether they want to be an organ donor when they apply for a new or replacement licence.

The move has been put forward by the government's "nudge unit", which has been set up to encourage changes in behaviour through gentle persuasion.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency already asks if applicants want to be donors - but from Monday an online form will require that the answer is stated.

Ministers hope it will help improve organ donation rates.

Less than a third of people are signed up to be organ donors - despite research suggesting that nine in 10 would he happy to be one.


The situation has prompted much debate in recent years about how best to improve rates.

Some have called for presumed consent, where it is assumed an individual wishes to be a donor unless he or she has opted out by registering their objection.

What is nudge?

  • It is an idea based on a book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein which advocates influencing behaviour by altering the context or environment in which people choose.
  • It differs from traditional approaches to changing lifestyles which tend to be more overt.
  • Conventional measures might include steps such as bans, using tax to increase price or promotional campaigns.
  • But nudge tends to be more subtle, perhaps involving the provision of information about social norms or changing the environment, such as installing fewer lifts in a building to encourage people to use the stairs more.
  • As well as working on organ donation, the Cabinet Office "nudge unit" will be looking at tax self-assessment and stop smoking services.

The government has so far rejected presumed consent and instead the Cabinet Office's behavioural insight team has suggested the driving licence idea as part of its "nudge" drive.

The DVLA's existing scheme is already responsible for about half of the 1m new donor registrations each year.

As well as becoming compulsory to answer the question, the section will be moved from the end to the start of the DVLA process, so when applicants from England, Wales and Scotland apply for new or replacement licences they will have to say whether they want to become an organ donor or not.

When a similar scheme was introduced in the US state of Illinois, donor registration jumped from 38% to 60%.

Public health minister Anne Milton said the move was aimed at encouraging people to discuss the issue more and make it easier for them to sign up.

"Being an organ donor is a truly selfless act and a life-saving gift to someone in need," she added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    When I updated my driving license recently I explicitly stated that I DO NOT want my organ's reused (there are good reasons I'd prefer not to say here) - however I still I got put on to the organ donor's register and had to go to a lot of trouble to get myself removed again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    To our political "masters": Consider this - is it possible that there is a low level of organ donation for the simple reason that most people have elected NOT to donate?
    Don't try to "force" people into making this kind of decision in a country where we are very bad at keeping personal data private, secure and unaltered.
    How long will it be before the first mistake is made? And at what cost?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I disagree with organ donations, medical science should start to develop synthetic organs; we must advance medical science and not stall it progress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I don't have a driving license. I carry my donor card always . However I am worried thatmy wishes to donate my organs won't be honoured as they won't find the card. Donor cards should be plastic like blood-donor cards . Also whatever you think of the NHS , it is no reason to deprive somone of the chance to live and their family of someone they love .Your organs are no good to you when you're dead

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I believe this is an excellent idea. My mother is alive now because of an organ donation (which came a few months before her kidneys were due to fail) and I will need to have a transplant in the near future. The people on here who say they would only donate if they could chose the recipient seem to think they have the right to choose whether another human being will live. Could you really do that?


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