Columnist: Encourage organ donation, but don’t use law to force people

Organ donation should be encouraged as an altruistic gift rather than an automatic right of the State, a newspaper columnist has warned.

Across Great Britain, systems are being changed from ‘opt-in’ to ‘opt-out’ with England set to introduce a ‘presumed consent’ regime from next year.

But commentator Stephen Glover challenged the idea, saying take-up could be increased under the current system.


He wrote, “that, of course, would involve the Government going to the trouble and expense of evangelising more than it has been prepared to do.

“How much easier for the powers-that-be to turn the problem around, and declare that, unless you make a hue and cry, your organs belong to the State”.

Glover said that under the new English system, which he branded “presumptuous”, trust could be eroded with doctors feeling under pressure to remove organs swiftly around the time of death.

“How much more morally sound, it seems to me, is the present practice of inviting people to identify as donors”.


The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill has been debated in Parliament and is now awaiting Royal Assent. It is set to come into law in 2020.

Wales introduced similar presumed consent legislation more than three years ago.

This is also a concerning shift in the balance of power between the state and the individual.

Ciarán Kelly, The Christian Institute

Donation rates have now increased. However, in the years around the new law, nearly £3.5 million of taxpayers’ money was spent promoting the system.

A further half a million pounds is budgeted to be spent on publicity in 2018-19.


The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly said: “If a similar amount of money had been spent on advertising the old system in Wales, we would have, in all likelihood, seen donations go up.

“The law should respect the voluntary nature of organ donation. This is also a concerning shift in the balance of power between the state and the individual.”

Presumed consent has also come under fire from John Fabre, a former President of the British Transplantation Society.

He said it could be predicted “with a high level of certainty that it is not going to increase donor numbers in the way that we all want”.

And NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton has said: “It’s no longer a powerful and generous gift that brings families together, but an assumption by the State that it can do what it wants with your body.”

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