Presumed Consent for Organ Donation: Smart Move or Orwellian Prophecy Come True?
Let’s presume you want to donate your organs. It’s very generous of you. Unless you don’t.
Members of the New York assembly are hoping to change the state’s organ donation system to increase the number of organs available for transplant, and are currently working on two separate bills to that end.
One bill seeks to move to “presumed consent.” This law would free up physicians to harvest organs from persons over the age of 18 without family consultation, increasing the odds of a successful outcome. The second bill contains an “opt-out” clause, allowing individuals the right to be removed from the presumed consent system.
The proposed bills are intended to prod people into thinking about organ donation before the decision is imminent, and to stop families from overriding loved ones’ wishes to donate organs, absent a written refusal from the deceased.
Almost 500 New Yorkers die each year while on organ waiting lists. A Washington Post story states that N.Y. assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s daughter owes her life to receiving two kidney transplants, and his hope is that N.Y. will become the first state in the nation to pass presumed consent laws. Twenty-four countries have similar laws already in place.
As of April 5, 2010, there were 106,759 people in the United States waiting for an organ for transplant, with an average wait time of three to four years. Organ donation saves lives, but the shortage of organs means that many on the waiting list will die. According to the Mayo Clinic, one person’s organ and tissue donations can save or improve as many as 50 lives.
Opponents of presumed consent laws say that patients’ rights are at stake. They worry about becoming organ donors against their wishes and fear that if doctors view all patients as prospective donors, they may not receive life-saving care.
There is little doubt that if such a bill were to become law in any state, legal challenges will follow.
Personally, I hate to think my family would override my wish to donate, but it is certainly possible that precious time could be wasted upon my death.
Presumed consent is not yet close to becoming reality in the U.S., but serious debate is warranted. What do you think? Does presumed consent make sense… potentially saving thousands of lives each year, or are we embarking on dangerous turf… the ultimate violation of individual rights a la George Orwell’s 1984. Please take a moment to answer the poll below.
In the meantime, if you are not currently enrolled as an organ donor, and wish to be, see the links below… and don’t forget to inform your family of your wishes.
Organ Donor Information and Resources
- Information on organ donation: OrganDonor.gov
- Locate your information for your state: State Donor Registry
- Download free organ donation cards: Be a Donor
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