The Telegraph leads today with a story concerning the government's latest plans to change the way in which organs are 'donated' in the UK. Gordon Brown wants to move towards a system of 'presumed consent' which would mean that anyone who did not wish to donate their organs would have to opt out.
The system of presumed consent is apparently already working well in Spain, where they have the highest proportion of organ donors in the world. Undoubtedly there is a problem with the current state of affairs, as there are too many people dying while waiting for an organ.
However surely it would be more ethical to simply put a bit more effort in getting people to opt in to organ donation in the first place? I, for one, have barely noticed the government trying to encourage people to carry donor cards over the last few years. There would also be many other ways in which to increase the number of people who were willing to donate, for example why not get GPs to ask this question when a patient registers for the first time, just a simple idea. For once I agree with some of the patients' groups:
"We don't think a private decision, which is a matter of individual conscience, should be taken by the state. If people want to give the gift of life, that is their right, but it must be something that is a voluntary matter. "
Ethically and morally I have a problem with the idea of presumed consent. It comes down to whether one thinks that the ends can justify the means, and there are also many less controversial ways of increasing the numbers of organ donors. Personally I think the government should put more effort into gaining people's consent before presuming it.