Organ donation should be a gift not a presumption. What do you think? In 2020, every adult in the country will be presumed to have offered his or her organs for transplant, unless they had specifically opted out. When you think about it, it seems so simple. Hundreds of people die each year through a lack of a suitable organ donor.
So, let’s boost the number of available hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers by ‘presuming’ the right to remove them from those whose brain-dead forms are themselves kept breathing only through machines.
After all, what use are the organs to them?
Yet this purely utilitarian approach entirely misses the moral power — and point — of the existing system. A donation is just that, a gift. What is not volunteered is not a gift! There is limited evidence that a system of presumed consent would even work. In Wales, where health policy is a devolved matter, the law was changed to ‘presumed consent’ in 2015. But a study published in December showed that Wales had not increased its numbers of donations since the legislation was implemented. Indeed, there was a drop in organ transplants from 214 to 187. And in Brazil, a new policy of ‘presumed consent’ had to be scrapped after public revulsion caused a drop in organs being made available.
If this problem is to be addressed, it should be at the point where life-and-death decisions are made: when someone’s life has ended tragically young. In other words, hospitals should devote more to counselling the bereaved relatives when asked to assent to the ultimate gift at a time of extreme grief. Currently, relatives block one in seven transplants in cases where the dead family member was on the national organ donor register. But there is fear we are inexorably moving towards a state which arrogantly overrides family and increasingly intrudes on territory which it never did before. Although, there is an urgent need to increase the supply of organs with three people dying every day because they cannot receive one.
It would be a civilised, benevolent and quite possibly a human-rights-compliant pogrom. This illustrates just why the State should tread with immense care in matters best left to families — which, after all, are the bedrock of society. To enforce the governments’ compulsion in areas of the greatest sensitivity to families is a recipe for discontent and dislocation between society and the State. That can only be dangerous and destructive.
This is clearly a sensitive issue and as always we will let you decide…