Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Opting out off organ donation - a helpful proposal?

So our Prime Minister thinks it should be assumed that we are all willing to donate our organs to medicine unless we explicitly opt-out or our families object.

Though I'm not a great fan of yet another state intrusion into a pretty damn personal realm, on consideration I think I'm coming round to this idea.

After all, symmetry and reciprocity are always good ingredients for any ethical recipe. And it seems to me that there is an implicit assumption that we would be willing organ recipients, though of course some have principled objections to that, too.

So perhaps it would be helpful, in more ways than one, to include on the opt-out form this second question:
Would you be willing to accept a donated organ if it was determined that you needed one but, due to unconsciousness or other problems, you were not in a position to give your consent?
Personally, I'm willing to donate. It's right there, in writing. So I feel free to accept. And to indulge myself with perhaps odiously smug comments on the matter.


Roger Lancefield said...

It's an excellent point Francis, and I agree in principle. To be eligible for organs, one should be prepared to donate. If one one declines to give, then one should not be (automatically) eligible to receive. If that's too hard-hearted for some, then at the very least, those who decline to donate should receive a lower priority should they ever find themselves in a recipient queue. That seems only fair.

I would normally vehemently oppose the measure proposed by the government on the grounds that it would be a severe encroachment upon civil liberties and an attack on personal dignity*. But given that the 'right' to organs is bestowed automatically, it casts the donation issue in a very different light. If we accept the right to receive any available donated organs should they ever be required, then IMO we have incurred a duty to donate our own organs after our deaths, should they be required and suitable.

This whole issue is going to be an emotive can of worms. An obvious issue is going to be that of the duration of the time window during which the state may help itself to your organs. Phew, get your popcorn, this is going to run and run.

(*I'm not impressed with those who claim that death effectively renders one's body biological garbage to be disposed of as the state sees fit (even though the state may be called up to do that for some individual's remains). We do not rent our bodies from the state and our biological death is not analogous to ending a tenancy agreement and handing back the keys. But this does not change my view stated above).

Roger Lancefield said...

And another thing...

I suppose it should be pointed out that the word 'donation' implies some kind of charitable or altruistic act. A move to a 'quid pro quo' type arrangement should surely preclude the use of the word 'donation'?

Francis said...

True, we may be hoping for reciprocity for signing the consent form. But if or when that consent is used to authorise the removal of our organs it will just a bit little bit too late for us to expect anything in return, so I'd stick with "donate"!