Human Exceptionalism

UK: Organs from Drug Addicts Used in Transplantation–Excuse for “Presumed Consent”

This isn’t good: In the UK some organs have been transplanted from drug addicts and cases of drug overdose because, allegedly, cases were desperate. And the answer to this disturbing bit of news? “Presumed consent” to organ donation. From the story:

Hundreds of below standard hearts, lungs and kidneys have been taken from drug addicts and transplanted into critically-ill patients, The Daily Telegraph has been told. Three per cent of the organs transplanted into patients in the past five years came from donors with a history of drug abuse–some of whom died from an overdose–figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.

One transplant surgeon said doctors were “desperate” for organs and had to use some they would otherwise have rejected. The findings sparked renewed calls for a change in the law to presumed consent–in which everyone is included on the organ donor register unless they specifically opt out.

Yes, well there is a big problem with informed consent in a utilitarian, ageist, and health rationing milieu like they have in the UK. If you get seriously injured, particularly if you are not expected to regain full cognitive functioning, some doctors might look at you as if you were a mere collection of organs that others could make better use of than a patient with full equal moral worth. And, in the UK, they have futile care theory already in the law, which could profoundly add complications to the issue.

I debated this issue on the BBC a few months ago and the organ physician I was up against really did not want to talk about futile care as it applied to the issue. Time did not permit us to get into it deeply, but before this proposal gets through Parliament, which it will unless something is done, somebody had better bring it up!

Presumed consent might pass muster in the UK where people are less individualistic and there is a greater sense of the collective. But it would never wash here in the USA–at least if it were clearly discussed. Bioethicists and members of the medical intelligentsia know this, of course, and so they are already busily thinking up the euphemisms to use to get us to swallow presumed consent–as in this paper which spends much time urging that the term be changed to “specified refusal” as a tactic to help get presumed consent laws passed:

Having a policy that can potentially increase rates of organ donation is not enough in and of itself. These informants who are involved in the creation of health policy, suggest that semantics and marketing are just as important as efficacy in influencing political feasibility.

Yes. When our betters among the intelligentsia want to sell us their snake oil, they know that telling the clear and candid truth tends to harm chances of their getting what they want. So, they change the terms. After all, the great unwashed are obstacles to be gotten around rather than constituents to be convinced by candid and honest advocacy.


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