Posts tagged ‘organ donation’

Organ snatching

Governments like to steal things, whether it is money (via taxes) or assets (via Nationalisation) but until now our bodies have been off the agenda for our so-called modern Western democracies.

That changed last week when the Welsh Assembly (a regional government) passed a law of presumed consent with regards to the organs of the deceased:

The Welsh assembly voted on Tuesday night to adopt the opt-out policy, which will allow hospitals to act on the assumption that people who die want to donate unless they have specifically registered an objection.

The final stage of a bill to adopt a system of presumed consent was passed by 43 votes to eight, with two abstentions, in spite of objections from religious groups on moral grounds and concerns that the scheme could add to the distress of grieving families.

Objections? I’m not surprised that there were objections!

When I die my body becomes the property of my estate, not the State. It is up to the person who has power of attorney over said estate to dispose of it as per my wishes, not get rid of whatever is left after it has been pillaged by forces acting on behalf of the State.

Now, as it happens, I have nothing against volunatry organ donation and am more than happy for that to take place. However I want to make it perfectly clear to these modern-day descendents of Burke and Hare that if I do happen to die on the western side of the River Severn* any time after this piece of legislation comes into force in 2015 then they do not and never will have my permission to take any organs from my still warm corpse.

Welsh politicians are happy though:

“This is a huge day for Wales, for devolution and, most importantly, for the 226 people in Wales waiting for an organ transplant,” said the Welsh health minister, Mark Drakeford.

Wait, what? In order to deal with 226 cases – a number which will, of course, change between now and 2015 – they are planning on harvesting organs from how many thousands of people who die** in the country each year? Or are they intending to be slightly more targeted in the matter and only take those organs which they think will match the requirements of those on the transplant list?

Leaving the numbers aside, I foresee some practical problems ahead…

  • How does one actually opt-out? Is it a card in the purse/wallet (i.e. the exact opposite of the current donor card), a statement in your last Will and Testament or other?
  • Who is going to check to see if an opt-out exists and what is the time limit on finding it?
  • Does this only apply to people nominally resident in Wales or to anyone who happens to depart this life whilst in the principality? I’m sure the relatives of tourists wouldn’t necessarily be amused to discover something is missing from the corpse they have just shipped home…
  • No doubt various religious groups will claim that this is against their beliefs.

And, looking to the future, who is to say that the ability to opt-out won’t be taken away by a subsequent administration? Organ donation was once opt-in, now it is starting to become opt-out so obviously the next stop down the slippery slope is to take away any pretense of allowing people to make up their own mind on the issue…

* Yes, I know it isn’t the full border but you get the point I am trying to make.
** 30,426 according to Table 3 of the ONS stats for 2011.

Sometimes letting go is hard to do

In the developed world outliving your children is, these days, considered a tragedy as, thanks to all of our technological and medical advances, mortality rates amongst the young are not what they once were.

This is, of course, a good thing. However it does mean that when such an event does occur the family that are left behind can find it difficult to cope with something that is considered out of the norm by modern standards.

It is perhaps even worse when it is unexpected, occurring because of an accident or suicide, rather than as the result of a known illness.

Having have sat in a room with friends of my parents who were grieving for their daughter (of about my age) who suicided, I saw some of the utter incomprehension that they went through. I won’t even try to describe it and I can’t imagine that it is any easier for those who lose a child to an accident.

We come then to the tale of 17 year old Israeli Chen Aida Ayash. Hit by a car in late July this year she died in hospital on August 3rd. After her death her family decided to donate her organs. All well and good. It is at this time though that the story gets into territory which causes me ethical and moral problems.

Why? Because at the same time the family obtained a court order to allow her ova to be harvested and frozen.

They also attempted, at the same time, to have the court allow that the eggs be fertilised with donated sperm but the court refused to authorise this saying that there was no proof that their daughter wanted children.

Yes, it is sad for her parents that their daughter died before she could given them grandchildren to bounce on their knees but there is no inalienable right to grandchildren, just as there is no inalienable right to children.

I’m sure someone will accuse me of not being true to Libertarianism by supporting the court here but so far as I see it death means death. It is the end of your hopes and dreams – and the end of the hopes and dreams that anyone, including your parents, had for you.

That said I can see an arguable case (whether I agree with it or not) for opposite gender partners who were in a stable, long term relationship with the deceased being allowed access to sperm (indeed this has already happened on a number of occasions) or eggs to allow the chance of procreation but their parents? I’m afraid I have to draw the line at that.

For the life of me I cannot see why parents of the deceased would want to conceive, after the death of the child, a grandchild who will never know its parents, especially when one of those ‘parents’ would be an anonymous sperm donor chosen by the grandparents? A child that would gestate in the womb of yet another party. A child that will some day want to know why its birthday is so well over 9 months after mummy died. A child that, whilst your grandchild, you will have to raise as your own child. A child that you can’t spoil in the way you would any other grandchild.

We may well be able to do this thing but just because we can doesn’t mean that we always should.

NB: It is reported in the Telegraph that the family has had a change of heart of will no longer seek to fertilise the frozen eggs.

Charity begins at…? Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, the Government’s spirit of giving seems to be in full swing this festive season. Not content with our money, it is after our bodies as well.

Yes, all right, before the howls of anguish start, I am being slightly dramatic.

Anyone who has had to fill in a D1 form to obtain a new or alter details on their existing driving licence will be aware that for quite some time now there has been a section to allow you to indicate that you would like to join the organ donor register. Completion of this section has been entirely voluntary.

But not any longer – or not after July 1st anyway. The Public Health minister, Anne Milton, has announced (news report only I’m afraid, I haven’t been able to find her actual statement) that from then on anyone filling out the form will have to indicate one of the following responses:

  • Yes I would like register on the NHS Organ Donor Register;
  • I do not want to answer this question now;
  • or I am already registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

It might not seem like much of a change, indeed the second answer is perhaps much the same as skipping over the section completely. The problem is that this change is forcing people to give a government mandated answer – and there isn’t a ‘No’ option. My organs are my property and it is up to me what I do with them, not for the state to reduce my say in the matter to a choice of “yes; already have done; ask me again later”.

It isn’t even a one time answer. Legally one has to notify the DVLA of every change of address as well as renewing the photo card portion of the licence every 10 years and then there is every extension when you get past 70. Each time the state gets to nag you again. Each time the question and the possible answers may change. How long before mission creep means that every person who wants a driving licence is automatically enrolled on the organ donor register?

Over the top? Not really. The likes of the BHF would like to see organ donation become an opt-out thing where everyone is included unless they say otherwise. That to me is tantamount to an organisation declaring that it owns your body unless you choose to take that ownership back and is completely unacceptable. The choice should always be mine to make. Anything else is unacceptable force by an outside agency and should be opposed.

And before anyone complains, I am not against organ donation. I am simply against the idea of someone else making the decision for me.