Tories to introduce ‘opt-out’ organ donation

What happened?

The Government will introduce “presumed consent” for organ donation in England, Theresa May announced at the Tory conference last week. May said the government was “shifting the balance … in favour of organ donation”, meaning that authorities will automatically assume people are organ donors unless they have specifically said otherwise. The Conservatives said: “Last year 500 people died waiting for a transplant because a suitable organ was not available.”

What the media said

The Guardian reported an enthusiastic response from medical professionals. Roberto Cacciola, a kidney transplant specialist, told the paper: “As a transplant surgeon I’m delighted with and excited by this initiative.” Fiona Loud, policy director at Kidney Care UK, said it was “fantastic news for the thousands of people currently waiting for a kidney transplant”.

But the Daily Mail’s Tom Utley said that May’s proposal was “very wrong”. True, most traditions – including Catholicism, the faith of Utley’s mother – recognise organ donation as “praiseworthy”. But as Catholic teaching also insists, the donor must consent. “By what twisted interpretation of the English language,” Utley asked, “can failing to tick an opt-out box on an NHS form be construed as ‘informed consent’?”

What Catholics said

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference said: “Organ transplantation when freely given is an intrinsic good. Explicit consent from the donor or the family of the donor is essential as a matter of respect for the person who has died. Without that consent, it shows a lack of respect for the person who has died for their body to be treated as a commodity.” The bishops quoted John Paul II as saying that “The human ‘authenticity’ of such a decisive gesture requires that individuals be properly informed.”

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