ORGAN donation was in the news again last week with the Government’s advance notice of when the law will be changed: spring 2020. Politically it should beggar belief that a Conservative Government is bringing in this State takeover of our bodies. Culturally, it is somewhat inconsistent. In an age in which we are taught that consent to sex has to be actively given, it seems a little ironic that when it comes to the removal of our vital organs on death this does not apply.
But that is how it is to be. Consent to organ donation will, in a few months, be assumed and automatic unless you make the effort to opt out.
Families, we are told, will still be consulted and the process will not go ahead without their support. That is something. But in law this is a very significant change from the opt-in (donor) choice to donate your organs to date.
As was to be expected, the BBC gave this development their PC seal of approval with a mock-up film steeped in emotion and seemingly designed to reassure us that we need have no worries, the body was definitely dead. It focused on the burden of the decision on family at such a distressing time. The report failed, however, to discuss the more fundamental moral issue, or the quite revolutionary change to the relationship between the State and the individual the law brings. It marked the triumph of ideology over evidence that the campaign for presumed organ donor consent that Philippa Taylor identified here.
It is, as we have argued in this pages before, a State takeover of our bodies under the newspeak guise of ‘deemed consent’.
That assumption – that everyone has now consented to donating their organs upon death without any evidence to prove that this is the case – as Laura Perrins has argued, constitutes a breach of the natural law. Such matters, it seems, are ones that today’s Conservatives In Name Only care little about which, presumably, is why they went ahead and changed the law anyway.
Depressingly it’s elicited next to no debate from within liberal or conservative political ranks.
If only on the grounds of ineffectiveness, comment should have been forthcoming. For even if we take it as read that we do need more people to donate their organs, the evidence is not compelling. Pre-consent, the data suggests, is not the best way to go about it. In fact opt-out legislation may do more harm than good and where tested the evidence is that it has led to a decrease rather than an increase in donations.
What does make the difference is human contact – the use of more specialist nurses helping distressed families make this difficult decision in a more informed and sensitive/caring way. This has a bigger impact on donation rates than presumed consent. But don’t expect the BBC to address this or the possible reasons why people are choosing to say No, I am not prepared to donate.
Being publicly supportive of organ donation is one thing. But it should not require us to support the State taking ownership and decision-making over our bodies.
This is a State step too far. It’s one thing opting in. It is quite another opting out.