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

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Jo S.
Jo S2 years ago

Thank you Ann.

Sue Lang
SUE Lang5 years ago

I've been a donor (its on my driver's license here in FL) for more than 20 years. Still, I registered again with the FL. site. PLEASE TAKE NOTE: For Florida anyway, only the first link works. the middle and last ones are dead ends.
There is a problem with "presumed donor", unless there is an opt-out. Hassidic (Ultra Orthodox) and Orthodox Jews would be horrified if their organs were harvested as its against their version of Judiasm. I'm sure there are other religions who feel the same. I'm Jewish, but reformed, so all is good with me and God!

Joe R.
Joe R5 years ago

Such an interesting topic! (I'm a donor. Well, not quite yet.))

Carole L.
Carole L7 years ago

Which country already have the presumed consent? How has it worked out in those countries?

Lindsey DTSW
.7 years ago

Susan, I've seen zero evidence that there is any trend towards allowing patients to die for their organs. And, of course, any medical personnel involved in a transplant can't be involved in the care of any potential donor.

Susan M.
Susan Moore7 years ago

People need to understand that this is Big Big Business and it is so big that people that are poor over sees are selling their organs for top dollar. It is about as cannibalism as it can get. And to top it off they charge top dollar to give it to someone. Your body when designed by God was given a very special code of DNA.. Taking organs from one person and giving to another , you are stressing the body, and some reject this. Also when people are close to dieing , they are more apt to let you die because of the organ donations. Think about this very carefully.

Lindsey DTSW
.7 years ago

I tend not to kill people when making my political statements, John. But that's just me, of course.

John C.
Past Member 7 years ago

Took "Organ Donor" off my driver's license when I found out those who test positive for (Medical) Marijuana are automatically DENIED donated organs. When that changes, I will change my status back to "Organ Donor".
This is the only form of protest available to me. I would gladly donate exclusively to those whom are denied organs under current rules. If someone would create an organ bank exclusive to medical marijuana users; I would be honored to be first on your list.
Hope one of you prejudiced hypocrites misses my kidneys or liver one day. You can thank you uncaring politicians for the "legalized discrimination" against you.
They are my organs and I will give them to whom I wish, or NOT.

DeannaGiggles hehe
Deanna Zimmerman7 years ago

Hmm Stuart,

You had me until the part about inventing a rule to lawfully killing people. We already have that law for people on life-support. The only question for them after their family has decided to pull the plug is whether or not their body parts will be donated.

Thanks for the star.


Stuart O.
Stuart O7 years ago

In an ideal world, full of good sane people, this wouldn't even be an issue. Everybody would be happy to pass on body parts so that someone else could live and to save the recipients family and friends the nightmare that the dead persons family would be enduring. However, the human race is not always logical, sane or kind.

We need to ask ourselves the following!

Assuming the dead person has not signed up to the theoretical 'I'd like to be selfish and let my healthy organs decompose' card. Which is more important, the feelings of the family and friends, or saving a life or lives? Baring in mind that by not saving the said life or lives, there is going to be a whole lot more peoples feelings being hurt.
I would also ban violent or psycologically dangerous individuals from recieving transplants. It is better to save those who contribute to society than those who are a danger too it.

I respect peoples right to believe what they want, but when some egotistical sociopath invents a rule to lawfully kill people; I have a problem.

I suppose it does help slightly with population control though.