Presumed consent is ‘state-imposed tax on bodies’

Presumed consent organ donation would amount to a state-imposed “tax” on people’s bodies, the Free Church of Scotland has warned.

Labour MSP Anne McTaggart is hoping to introduce a Bill to Holyrood, creating an opt-out system where a patient’s organs are harvested after death unless they have previously chosen not to donate.

But responses to McTaggart’s consultation revealed widespread opposition to the proposals, including from health professionals, ethics experts and religious groups.

Silence not consent

Former Free Church Moderator and retired surgeon Revd Dr Donald MacDonald pointed to Sweden, where organ donation rates are lower than the UK despite it having a system of presumed consent.

He wrote: “Organ donation should be about deliberate and informed giving, instead of medical teams assuming it’s ok to take parts from our bodies. Silence is not consent.

“Following the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital scandal, the public is suspicious about removal of organs post mortem and this type of law might only increase that suspicion and could be counterproductive.”

Unfounded assumption

He added: “‘Presumed consent’ in an opt-out system is based on the unfounded assumption that every single person who has not opted out was aware of the opt-out provision and has consciously taken a decision not to opt out.

“This is no consent at all and a donation on this basis is not a donation but something akin to a tax imposed by the State. It means that the State claims to have ownership of our bodies after death unless we consciously reject this while alive.”

A group of Intensive Care professionals warned that a “conflict of interest may well be perceived where a health care professional is both responsible for the decision to commence end of life care for a patient as well as being responsible for identifying that patient as a potential organ donor”.

Public behaviour

And the Royal College of Nursing Scotland said it is not in favour of the Bill, and instead supports “changing public behaviour with regard to organ donation”.

The Scottish Government has said it does not currently see the need to change the organ donation system.

In December this year, presumed consent for organ donation will come into force in Wales.

The new system would mean patients who are over 18 and have lived in Wales for more than a year are automatically put on the organ donor register unless they opt-out.