A letter I wrote to the Irish Times
Sir, – I welcome Laura Kennedy’s invitation to discuss the issue of consent in organ donation, and specifically the opt-out system that the Government plans to introduce (“Will an opt-out organ donation scheme impact our bodily autonomy?”, Life, January 16th).
This is a system whereby organs will be removed from patients’ bodies upon death, for transplant, if they have not expressly forbidden it. Otherwise, consent will be presumed.
The opt-out regime is based on the assumption that when inevitable death is approaching, the State or the hospitals own our bodies and can dispose of their parts, unless we or our family explicitly object.
This principle is not acceptable, even if it is motivated by the noble intent of addressing the problem of shortage of organs for transplant in Ireland.
Donation should arise from an informed and deliberate decision.
An opt-out system does not properly respect the principle of informed consent.
If the current opt-in regime is not adequate to satisfy the need for donors, it could be improved so that every patient, when visiting their GP or a hospital, should be explicitly asked to express their option on the matter.
An opt-out system is detrimental not only for those who are not aware of the details of the legislation, probably the majority of people, but particularly for vulnerable groups in society such as those who do not have adequate language skills, or cannot fully consent.
Donation must remain a choice freely made and taking without asking is not giving. Our organs are not at the State’s disposal. – Yours, etc,