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…
** 30,426 according to Table 3 of the ONS stats for 2011.