Britain’s Tories: From Edmund Burke to Burke & Hare

by Andrew Stuttaford

Edmund Burke (via Wikipedia):

In the nineteenth century Burke was praised by both conservatives and liberals.Subsequently, in the twentieth century, he became widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism.

Burke and Hare (via Wikipedia):

The Burke and Hare murders were a series of 16 murders committed over a period of about ten months in 1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The killings were undertaken by William Burke and William Hare, who sold the corpses to Doctor Robert Knox for dissection at his anatomy lectures. Edinburgh was a leading European centre of anatomical study in the early 19th century, in a time when the demand for cadavers led to a shortfall in legal supply.

Theresa May (via the Guardian):

The prime minister announced plans to move to a system of presumed consent – meaning everyone is presumed to agree to the removal and reuse of body parts after their death unless they opt out – in her speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Wednesday.

To be fair, May is not actually advocating that people be killed for their kidneys (but the whole Burke/Burke & Hare thing was too tempting to pass up). Nevertheless, there is something about this policy that is, well, hard to reconcile with the idea of the Conservative party’s image (however tatty) as a defender of the individual against the state, and it’s stirred up some interesting opposition. 

The Daily Mail: 

The UK’s former organ transplant chief said he was ‘horribly opposed’ to Government plans for everybody’s organs to be automatically considered for donation. Professor Chris Rudge even said he would ‘opt-out’ himself if Theresa May’s plans went ahead. His comments come after the Prime Minister announced last week a consultation on the rules in England, which currently require people to ‘opt in’.

Rudge, who was the national clinical director for transplantation at the Department of Health from 2008 to 2011, said: ‘I think I would opt out because organ donation should be a present and not for the state to assume that they can take my organs without asking me.

‘No one knows better than me the problems of thousands of people waiting for a transplant. Part of me really wants to help them but part of me really objects to the opt-out system.

‘I am so horribly opposed to a change in the law and I wouldn’t like to be put in that position.

‘Changing the system may take away people’s faith and trust in organ donation.

…Rudge’s wife, Mary, a former nurse, also spoke of her sadness about the proposal, and said she would refuse to give permission for her husband’s organs to be donated.

‘I would say, ‘No, you cannot have them.’

That, for a family that has been rooted in transplantation for 40 years, is just terrible,’ she said.

Heckuva job, Theresa

Meanwhile, in the course of a distinctly unflattering article about the Tories (some, but not all of which, with which I agree) Laura Perrins writes:

The last straw for me was the proposed ‘presumed consent’ organ donation scheme, more accurately described as the State organ appropriation scheme. This is small fry in the scheme of things but it sums up the whole rotten party. The concept that your body is yours, and remains yours and then under the control of your family after death, is so fundamental, so obvious, so visceral and so conservative that it should not need explaining.

Quite.

The principle of organ donation is an excellent one, but the magic word is donation. 

Now Theresa May tells us that in fact your body belongs to the State, unless you have taken the time and trouble to tell the State otherwise.

May’s policy is a nudge too far. Technically, organ donation would, of course, still be voluntary, but the way that the prime minister wants to shift the onus onto the individual to opt out says a great deal about how her bungling and bossy Tories  tend  to put the state first. To put it another way, their heart is in the wrong place, although I realize that, given the topic, that may be an unfortunate choice of words. 

Mind you, compared with Corbyn’s Labour…..

H/t: Semi-Partisan Politics

The Corner

The one and only.