Friday, 2 March 2012

Body parts

There is a majority according to the BBC St Davids Day poll in favour in favour of the government harvesting organs when someone dies.
To be exact, and one must always try to be exact in these things, the ICM asked the following:
The Welsh Assembly Government is planning to introduce a law to change the way organs are donated in Wales. If it's passed, the new law would presume people want to donate their organs when they die, unless they choose to opt out by taking their names off the register. This is known as "presumed consent". 
Are you personally in favour of a law that presumes consent for organ donation 63% 
Against a law that presumes consent for organ donation 31% 
Don’t know 6%
Now, I’m very much with the minority on this issue and I say this having carried a donor card in my wallet until very recently.
Now the government is poised to strike out altruism out of the Welsh lexicon and decide for us. In effect it is to nationalise our bodies and take the decision from the individual and rest it with the state.
When at LSE one of the few lectures I attended was that of Professor Richard Morris Titmuss. He was Professor of Social Administration, a great social researcher, indeed a pioneer of social research. But above all a man that cared. Put simply, a good egg.
The last book that I read of his was “The Gift Relationship” a book about the merits of the voluntary blood donation system in the UK and the private, for profit system, in the USA. Not the most of exciting of subjects many would say and not bed time reading, unless of course you’re a vampire.
But in the book Titmuss expressed his own philosophy of altruism in social and health policy and, like much of his work, emphasised his preference for the values of service voluntarily given over private or commercial forms of care and, dare I say it, now - the state. Indeed so compelling were the arguments in the book that it persuaded the US to regulate its private market in blood.
Now altruism is one of the most compelling of the human virtues a concern for the welfare of others. It is that concept of the ‘others’ that we need to have a concern for. Now it would seem the state are saying, forget that, you can’t be trusted to give, we’re taking over. 
Now, of course, the legislation when it’s passed will be done with the best of motives. But, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 
Can you imagine that our health service is equipped to harvest our body parts in a quick and efficient manner. The press are full of stories of delayed ambulance responses, a shortage of beds to move people into from A & E, ambulances queueing with patients waiting to be dealt with. 
Organs have to be dealt with swiftly on death. Are we seriously saying that the health service that we know and love, is equipped to cope promptly. All the evidence would suggest not. 
So how will they deal with the situation by keeping the body ‘alive’ until they’re ready to harvest. Hmm, me thinks there will be some issues arising. Not least when will the relatives be allowed  to claim the bodies of their loved ones for burial.
Now if the Welsh Government want to take over my body let them also pay for its disposal. Now there’s an idea. State burial.
No, pure altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone other than the self. It’s an act for the individual not the state. 


  1. I agree.

    I have an additional objection, if it is valid. I've understood that organs could be used for patients in other parts of the UK as well.

    How is that going to work out? Who would get priority, a Welsh patient or an English patient? What if there are more benifactors outside Wales than inside.

    I'm uneasy at the thought of Wales (the poorest member of the UK and dependent on the Treasury) unilaterally giving its citizens' body parts to the richer countries (especially if those other countries decided not to follow Wales's example)

    If the Welsh government is going to be altruistic on our behalf with our organs, then what's the difference with providing our organs to the EU. No, don't think some could stomach the thought of that.

  2. maen_tramgwydd2 March 2012 at 17:25

    I'm with you on his one, Gareth.

    Anon 04:47

    I don't think I'd be for the proposal were Wales a sovereign state, on the same issue(s) of principle.

    I agree that there is the possibility of misuse of the system by it not being adopted throughout the UK. The organs should be available worldwide - but having said that, in some countries people get well-paid for procuring organs.

    It's a well-meaning, but an ill-considered proposal.

  3. I have not agreed with you on a number of things Gareth but am 100% with you on the proposed Burke & Hare law.

  4. I am not Welsh but I live in Wales? Does this give the Welsh government any rights over my body?

    And what about those holidaying in Wales sadly involved in a fatal car accident? What rights is the Welsh government assuming in such cases?

    It's a terrific idea. And I'm all for it. Welsh people should be encouraged to donate so that others throughout the UK can carry on living. You never know, this just might be something that Wales can become a world leader in!

    Fantastic. But, understandably, given that I'm not Welsh I don't want the Welsh state to have any rights over me and mine!