October 6, 2022

Ignore wishes of dead if their organs are needed, say British bioethicists

Choice when dead is nonsense

One
of Britain’s leading bioethicists has endorsed compulsory deceased organ
donation. Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, John Harris, of the
University of Manchester, and Antonia Cronin, of Kings College London, argue
that today’s organ shortage is so severe that it trumps autonomy over the
posthumous use of one’s body.

It is
absurd, they say, for the wishes of dead people to restrict the use of
potentially life-saving organs. “When I am dead I have
lost the capacity that it is the point of autonomy and the law to
protect. I am no longer able to think critically about
preferences,
desires or wishes. I am no longer able to make choices.”

Nor
is it appropriate for relatives to act as proxy for a deceased person’s wishes.
Religious and conscience objections should be also ignored: “It is difficult to
see how a democratic
society faced with a public health and public safety catastrophe
which is costing that society thousands
of lives would not be
justified in limiting both the right to privacy and
family life and
the right to conscience and religion.”

Harris
and Cronin believe, in fact, that there is a moral imperative to adopt a policy
of organ conscription if an organizational shake-up fails to solve the organ
shortage crisis. “If we allow personal preference to take priority over
the life-saving potential of organ transplants, we must take
collective responsibility for the lives that will, as an
inevitable
consequence, needlessly be lost.” ~ Journal
of Medical Ethics, October



Michael Cook
informed consent
John Harris
organ donation