Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Opt-out organ donation is illiberal, immoral and repellent

Iain Dale's Diary used to be the blog which some of us LibDems read avidly to disagree with. I don't bother with him anymore as his credibility has evaporated and he has become a self-parody. Perhaps he will get better after July 19th.

So the Norfolk Blogger now seems to be fulfilling the role of the blog you read avidly to disagree with. Bless him. It's so much nicer for this role to be performed in-house.

Making organ donation after death an "opt-out" rather than an "opt-in" procedure is practised in many countries. Stephen Pound MP made a very sound case for it last night on Radio Four's PM. But it is fundamentally illiberal. It means that the state owns your body upon death and can remove organs from it. The idea that someone may be too embarrassed or too busy to fill out an exemption form, then die, then their relatives see their body "carted off" by the state, is disgusting.

Britain has one of the highest family refusal rates for organ donation of 47%. A presumed consent system is an insufferably blunt instrument to override that current "spur of the moment/after the death of a loved one" resistance. But:

John Oliver, of UK Transplant, the organisation that oversees organ donation, said: “Britain’s high relative refusal rate is the single biggest barrier to more lives being saved. Four out of ten people identified as suitable donors do not go on to donate because their relatives refuse. One of the main reasons is because the family, at a traumatic time, say they have never discussed it.”

Perhaps we have some work to do, to break down the taboo here before introducing draconian measures?

And don't go round waving the shrouds of 1,000 people a year to get this through chaps! My son died and we would have loved to have given his organs, but none of the medical staff brought it up. (When we brought it up I seem to remember it was explained that organ donation wasn't possible due to the need for a post-mortem, which is a shame because it didn't need a genius to work out that my son had died from Meningitis.) There should be more asking about organ donation by medical staff and more encouragement of discussion amongst families before death.

I've been there holding a loved one's dead body - actually giving their organs strikes you as a wonderful way of making some sense of their death. But if you've never discussed it with the deceased I suspect you don't want to presume what they would have said on the subject.

Only 25% of people carry a donor card in this country. The rate is 44% in Holland, which suggests there is great scope for improving our card carrying rate without bullying. More asking and more advertising, more pushing and more discussion of the card system is needed, not an illiberal and repellent practice.

And its nothing to do with religion! Opt-out organ donation is immoral.

PS. I have carried an organ donation card for seven years. But then, I am an anorak and take care over these things.


  1. I agree fully.

    (and yes, Norfolk Blogger does seem to have taken up that mantle ;) )

    Personally I see nothing wrong with trading organs. It does already happen and in the black market and bringing it into the open would mean there'd be far more openness and scrutiny bringing much needed safety to people who wish to go down that route...

  2. (Here's the comment that wasn't accepted in Norfolk Blogger):

    I used to have a donor card in my wallet until I was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

    If such system will be introduced, I just hope that I don't have to carry a card which would give me up as HIV+ also in other circumstances.

  3. Excuse me, buefore Mr Anonymous accuses me again. I have been a tthe hospital ALL DAY at the neo natal intensive care unit where my son has been for the last nine days, before you get on your bloody high horse about me not accepting comments. I am now back home and I have already accepted your comments that were published about 50 minutes ago.

    I am sorry that people disagree with me so much, but I am pleased that I am providing a serviec to everyone.

  4. Colin Ross agrees with you Nich,, so you are not alone. It is an important debate, which arises passions - no bad thing.

  5. Anonymous, (couldn't you at least invent a nickname), I don't see anything under any stretch of logic in the proposed system that would necessitate you carrying a card, or indeed stating a reason why you opt-out.

    I'm registered as an organ donor on the current system. I don't carry the card.

  6. People should first know the REAL TRUTH about organ donation - and then decide for themselves. No one should choose for another - especially when that person said NO. Go to: - search for video clip using words: organ donation controversy. This young man was cut on 29 minutes before being pronounced dead! Note: he did NOT have any strokes. Can you see what is really going on with organ donation?

  7. I am an organ donor, I recently heard about the doctor (Hootan Roozrokh) in California who is being accused by prosecutors of prescribing excessive doses of morphine and sedatives to hasten the death of a disabled man with cerebral palsy, in order to procure his organs for transplant. He died from the results (but not immediatly, it did not hasten death and he was returned to his room and then died hours later).

    I did extensive research on American organ donation, and I learned some very frightening and disturbing things.

    I want to share them so that people will understand that they are not being given the whole truth:

    -- At Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, Calif., neurologist Narges Pazouki said an OPO (organ-procurement organization) representative pressed her to declare a patient brain-dead before the appropriate tests had been done. She refused. Would you like some bueaurocrat pronouncing you or your loved ones dead so they can harvest your organs quicker?? Or worse, hastening your death? It has happened (just do research on Dr. Hootan Roozrokh)

    -- In many hospitals, organ network representatives now routinely comb through patients' records looking for potential donors. That frightens me. What happened to patients' medical records being confidential?

    --In some cases, OPO representatives request tests, such as HIV screening, of a patient without obtaining family members' consent, or ask doctors to administer blood pressure drugs or other medication to keep a possible donor's organs viable until their suitability can be determined and the family consent can be obtained.

    -- Just because you are an organ donor, does not gaurantee you will be put on the organ waiting list. It is a little known fact that you are only put on the waiting list if you have HEALTH INSURANCE. So.....if you are a donor, but have no health insurance (which a large percentage of americans fall under), DO NOT expect to be given that same "gift of life" you are so gladly offering others....

    -- Unlike the official propaganda, the actual process of removing the organs DOES often disfigure the corpse, and there have been witnesses (doctors of course) who have went on record referring to the process as "butchering". Imagine your loved one's remains being treated with such disrespect.. It makes me shudder....

    It is because of the above results of my research that I have decided to no longer be a donor.

    I strongly encourage everyone to get ALL the facts first before making such a decision. Please do research to learn more then the official propaganda (which not suprisingly paints a very rosey picture)... weigh your research...

    I am betting that once you learn what really goes on, you will think twice about our current organ donation system.

  8. I don't agree!!

    If you are so against donating your organs you WILL make time to fill out the paperwork! Excluding those people who opt to donate their organs due to religious reasons, or due to medical conditions/diseases, it is abusurd that people would choose to NOT give the gift of life.

    Here is something to ponder: If only 25% of people in the U.S. are organ donors, I wonder how many of the people waiting for organs are/were organ donors?? How is it just to give someone an organ who was not previously an organ donor?
    So, just because you didn't want to give someone the gift of life, you should receive the gift of life if the time should come...

    This is where the problem is!! I feel like people are against it until it happens to themselves or a loved one. People need to understand that the need for an organ can happen to ANYONE at ANYTIME.

    With the way it is going with the shortage of organs, we might as well stop donating OUR blood, since people don't want the government being in control of our body.

    Give the Gift of Life NOW, because you never know if it will be you one day waiting patiently for an organ.

  9. I am not against organ donation. I have carried a organ donation card for all my organs for the last seven years and I wanted to donate my son's organs when he died.

    People give blood voluntarily in the UK. There is no compunction or "assumption of consent".

    We'll have to agree to disagree, it is fundamentally wrong to presume consent. It is illiberal and statist. People of the ages of 19,20,21 to whom this particularly applies because of the viability of their organs, are most unlikely to register non-consent.

  10. I am for organ donation. I personally wish the United States would adopt the presumed consent policy. I have done the research, in fact I am writing my second paper on it now. I am a registered donor and I talk to anyone I can about becoming a donor.

    I do not try to persuade anyone to be for organ donation if they are against it, I only want to make sure they know all the facts. I am not saying that NO bodies have EVER been disfigured during the donation process or that NO doctors have EVER tried to obtain the organs before death..I'm sure these things have happened; there are corrupt people in every job setting, including the hospital.
    I would dare to say if a body becomes disfigured it is most certainly not intentional.

    What I have to ask others is, why on Earth do you think you need your organs after death anyway? What good are they to you? I can honestly say if taking my organs does disfigure my body after I die I DON'T CARE..I'm dead! My friends and family won't have to see me like that..sure they COULD, but they would choose not to of course. My family stands behind my decision and would not refuse to let my organs be taken, even if the doctors said it would definitely disfigure my body. It would save up to TWELVE lives, isn't that much bigger than anything else at hand?

    There are exceptions to every rule, but the good far out-weighs the bad when it comes to organ donation. I am sorry if others do not agree with me, but I know if I needed an organ I would certainly like to think they would available. Wouldn't you? How will they be available if more people are opposed than for it? Do you expect others to give up an organ for you?? Why should they when you aren't giving one up for anyone else?