To make a choice


In England, there are currently plans to change the existing ‘opt-in’ organ donations service into an ‘opt-out’ service by 2020. This law is very troubling to me, and it should be for you.

As of 2018, the laws on donating organs are as follows: If you live in the United Kingdom, you can opt-in for organ donation by registering on an NHS website. What this will mean is that you will get a card saying you’re an organ donor, and when you die, your organs can be used to help preserve or prolong the life of up to 9 people. Under the new law, all adults will have been added automatically to the organ donation register. This will mean that, when you die, if you have not made a decision, either way, your name will be on the donation register, and your family will be made to come to a decision.

This system has benefits, to an extent. 6,400 people are in critical need of an organ donation. So the best way to find more eligible donors is to have more people on the register. And think about it, you’re not going to be using your organs after you die. I can see that side to it, and I agree that having more organs available is going to increase the likelihood of people getting transplants. In 2014,┬áthe total number of deaths was 598,694. Organ and tissue donations can save up to 9 people, per person’s organs.

My issue is practice, however. This system is pretty much faultless, in principle. In practice, I don’t know if it will work, and I don’t think it will. My main concern is what will happen to my body after I die. I, as a libertarian, value my self-autonomy. I value having control of my body, and I value having the choice to donate my organs or to not donate my organs. This system is removing choice and is not incentivising people to make a decision.

The idea that your body will be harvested for organs upon your death worries me as well. Under the current system, families do have the opportunity to make a decision on behalf of the deceased as to whether organs can be donated. This new system risks removing that and giving your body to the state. It is for these reasons, and more, that I have personally opted out of donating my organs. I have spoken with my next of kin about it, with my next of kin being my Mother, and I have submitted my form to the NHS Donate page.

If the government wants an alternative to the current system, then make a real change to the law which will maintain the autonomy of people’s bodies, while increasing incentives for people to make a decision. Have all UK citizens over the age of 16 receive a letter saying that they will be automatically placed on the organ donation register if they do not make a decision to opt in or out. Let people make the choice that way, and have your cake and eat it. Or, to really rile people up, decrease taxes for people who offer to donate their organs, and increase it for people who don’t make a decision. Make them pay for the care of terminally ill people. And give them donor cards too.

The idea of refusing something that could potentially save lives is something that I am struggling with now because this is a system that is made to make people feel selfish or morally wrong for wanting to maintain body autonomy during the process of dying. It is wrong to me on so many levels for a system to do that to someone, which is why the government must work on a campaign to incentivise making a decision now before the law does change. I would encourage you all to do the same now. This law will not come into force in England until 2020.


About the author


Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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