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Should we move to an ‘opt-out’ system of organ donation?



What's going on?

This week the family of a schoolgirl in Wales made the brave decision to allow their daughter's organs to be used in transplant operations after she died of an asthma attack.

Although it’s difficult to comprehend the pain her parents felt as they were asked, their decision resulted in five other children receiving healthy organs and possibly saving their lives.

This comes after an NHS survey revealed that, in order to make organ donation a normal part of UK culture, a majority of people would back moving to a system where patients are automatically placed on the donor's register, and have to "opt-out" if they do not wish to donate.

The Welsh Government is proposing to introduce a "soft opt-out approach" from as early as 2015.

Have they got the right idea?

Case for: Save a life

Every year a staggering one thousand people die waiting for a donor organ. 90% of people in the UK said they would allow their organs to be used – and yet under a third of us have joined the Organ Donor Register. It’s an individual choice, and the opt-out option would be there if you chose it. If tragedy struck, what better way could your body be used?

Case against: State intrusion

It may seem the height of selfishness to wish to keep one's own organs after death. For certain, there's little use for a fine pair of lungs or kidneys six feet underground. But this isn't simply a question of medical need, it's another example of unwarranted state intrusion into the lives of citizens. By forcing me to "opt-out" of organ donation, the state effectively rules that my body is on loan for as long as I live - but after death reverts to their care. I for one believe that my corpse is my own, and I'll decide how to dispose of it myself.