Sunday, 13 January 2008

The state nationalises our organs

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.


DundeeMedStudent said...

Hmm Oddly the only places I've seen that promote organ donation recently are the DVLA when you first apply for a driving licence and Boots when you sign up for their loyalty card, so they know something we don't?

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Surely this is something the NHS IT project should have been set up for? Ignoring the various concerns about that, surely there should be one of their much loved boxes on patient notes to say whether or not someone wants to donate organs or not?
Bendy Girl

The Welsh Pharmacist said...

I actually agree with the government on this. Which is a rather unpleasant feeling.

As an aside, I had a patient ask me the other day

a) how to become an organ doner

(Easy enough, I gave him a card, told him to fill it in)

b) "I want to leave my body to medical science. My doctor told me you'd know how to do it."

(Bloody buck-passing doctor, I thought. I told him that I had no idea, and told him to contact the local medical school. And no sir, I don't think they'll let a third party do it for you. People may get suspicious.)

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