Currently, there’s a bill, among others, on George Pataki’s desk. As described in an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Daily News:
“The most revolutionary among these bills would have the state start studying something called “presumed consent” – the practice whereby everyone in the state is presumed to consent to being an organ donor, unless he or she actively opts out.” (Here)
(Long story why I was reading the News. Basically I left before my Times was delivered and needed something to buy for the change of a dollar, refused to buy the Post.)
Anyway, the idea struck me. At first, I recoiled (shoulda seen me on the Subway, people must have thought I was having a seizure 🙂 ) at the idea. I should decide what goes on with my organs. The libertarian in me said, “hands off my kidney. What’s next, forced donor registration and forced donation?” But then the pragmatist took over. Nobody would be forced to donate. It would simply shift the mechanism from opt-in to opt-out.
Certainly, the lazy middle would suddenly go from being non-donors to donors. (That’s the thrust of the op-ed, that inertia should be used to promote donation, not stifle it.) But those that felt strongly one way or the other would do what they have to, just like they do now.But should be really presume that people intend to donate their organs? Should this be up for a vote. If a referendum showed that a majority of people would donate their organs if the situation arose, then consent should be presumed, following the majority.
But does the legislature have the right to presume the consent without taking such a referendum? (This website suggests that the opt-out rate in European countries that have Presumed Consent is 2%. Wow.) Would it be a good thing?
I think so. There is a severe organ shortage in this country. Presuming that people consent to donating their organs would have to dramatically increase the number of available organs. I honestly have no idea in strict numbers, but it simply has to be.
Certainly, there are arguments to be made regarding an indicidual’s right to choose, and privacy and “it’s my body.” But then I wonder, are the people who make these arguments going to be the same people who make them in favor of abortion, or will it be the people who reject them about abortion? Doesn’t the “Culture of Life” absolutely mandate that once a person is dead (and let’s not dispute that, because one must be dead to be an organ donor) anything that can be done to save another’s life, including removing a liver or a kidney before that person goes into a Titanium box forever, should be done? I think so. I wonder how this will flip the traditional arguments. I really wonder if anyone can be opposed to it (one thing that blogging has taught me, someone will always be opposed to everything. I could say “the sky is blue” and I’ll get a comment “maybe to you, lefty.”).
From a Jewish perspective (which I really tried to avoid until now), in the interest of full disclosure, I am student of Rav Tendler when it comes to Bioethics. Literally, I took his bioethics class in YU (I was a Bio major). I remember his feelings on the matter of organ donation, and they were unequivocal. Certainly, there will be people touting halachic authorities that disagree, and that say that organ donation isn’t as peachy-keen as I think. And to them I ask:
If Hashem will replace your worm-chewed heart with a new one after tchias hamaysim, why can’t he just give you a new one? Let someone else use to live instead of making it worm food.