All Your Body Are Belong To Us!

Families are unfairly blocking organ donation from dead relatives who wanted to make the gift of life, claims a leading expert in ethics.

Why do I always see that phrase, ‘leading expert in ethics’ and know I’m going to see something that makes me wonder if it’s even human?

At least one in 10 people who decided in advance to donate their organs is having their wishes thwarted, it has emerged.

Doctors are blamed for not trying hard enough to persuade families to do the right thing, says an article in the British Medical Journal.

Because it’s clearly the easiest thing in the world to suggest that doctors – who are only human, after all – strongarm grieving relatives.

Author Dr David Shaw said the law is on the side of medics when a dead patient is on the donor register, and their organs can be taken against the will of the family.

Instead, doctors are giving in to psychological pressure from grieving relatives even when they know the dead patient was carrying an organ donor card, he said.

The patient is dead. He’s no longer grieving. He’s no problem. But the relatives are very much alive, remember!

He said ‘The doctor’s qualms about causing more distress for the family cause deaths by omission and greater consequent emotional distress to far-off families, whose relatives will die because there were not enough organs available.’

Yes, but they aren’t in front of the doctor, weeping and wailing. The deceased’s relatives are

Doctors involved in these cases should persist even if it causes the family ‘some short term distress’ said Dr Shaw.

Although the family should be treated with compassion, it is unethical not to make the case for respecting the dead person’s wishes and assisting other patients in need of organs, he said.

The dead are dead. Their wishes are no more. The doctors have to deal with the living. It’s not hard to see why they dodge the issue!

It’s not quite as cut and dried as he makes it, either:

Keith Rigg, former president of the British Transplantation Society, said although doctors could take a dead patient’s organs legally if they were on the register whatever the family said, this does not happen in practice.

He said a code of practice to the Human Tissue Act made clear the family’s wishes should be respected.

Indeed! And doctors are respecting them. Is that not ethical?

And, as Longrider has often pointed out, the end result of this way of thinking is that, when it comes to your body, “you are only a tenant until the state has need of it”.

Is that ethical?

11 comments for “All Your Body Are Belong To Us!

  1. Mudplugger
    August 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Doctors do face a major problem in addressing grieving relatives at a most difficult time but, in truth, that should be part of their developed skill-set, just like their surgery tasks etc.

    On the occasions when I have attended the deaths of close relatives, I have pointedly asked the medics if they wanted to harvest any organs, regardless of whether the dead relative had signed up as a donor or not. My logic being that the relative had finished with the body at that point and if I could use my ‘responsibility’ for it to help others, then that is the right thing to do. But many grieving relatives find that position difficult.

    But the whole donor issue is unclear and it seems unlikely that ‘presumed consent’ will prove acceptable in the short term. But maybe there’s another way.

    Why not make it a pre-condition of receiving an organ that you have been registered as a donor for at least 12 months ? That would put a wholly different flavour on the ‘contract’ – by agreeing to become a donor, you would also be ‘registering’ yourself as a potential recipient, should you ever need an organ transplant.

    That doesn’t mean the NHS would deny any transplants to non-donors, but those already registered as donors would simply be placed above non-donors on the waiting-list. Moving from pure altruism to that level of enlightened self-interest may change the whole transplant scene for the better.

  2. Derek
    August 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Organ transplantation is very good business for some of the top doctors. The more transplants they do, the fatter their wallets get.

  3. Tatty
    August 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    The ole “Do No Harm” thing wasn’t very well thought out, was it. 😐

  4. August 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    If the grieving relatives say “no” then “no” it is. The doctors in this instance are responding with tact and are taking the ethical approach – even if, apparently it is not in accordance with what they believe were the wishes of the deceased. The body is now the responsibly of the relatives, not the state.

    • Tatty
      August 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      The body is now the responsibly of the relatives, not the state.

      Excellent point. It’s not even as if the NHS steps in to pay to bury/cremate what’s left over, is it. The very least they could do, IMHO.

  5. August 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Now I know why doctors bump off so many patients. And I thought it was just the Chinese and the Kosovars who were into forcible organ removal…I should have taken this Monty Python sketch more seriously –

  6. Voice of Reason
    August 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Organ donation will be the last decision I can probably ever make for myself. My family should not be able to over-ride it.

    • Tatty
      August 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      My family should not be able to over-ride it.

      Another excellent point…but…you won’t be around to see the aftermath of your death and the additional pain and sadness this might cause. Especially if they had no idea that was what you wanted. Imagine what a shock it might be.

      Your comment also raises the point as to when or why it’s ever acceptable to allow the State to override your family. But I digress…

  7. Nox
    August 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    In all honesty, what’s required is better communication with ones family. Failing that, perhaps it’s possible to legally designate a friend to act on your behalf once you’re dead, to ensure that your wishes, either for or against organ donation, are carried out.

    My son wants to donate his remains to a body farm. From a purely knee jerk, emotional stand point I hate the idea. But it’s not about me. It’s his carcass, and his choice.

  8. Greg Tingey
    August 14, 2012 at 8:14 am

    The realtives are deliberately opposing the (last) wishes of the dead.
    In what way is this a good idea?

    • Tatty
      August 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Good question…I have one for you…I oppose the wishes of other people every day if said wishes prove detrimental in any way to the physical health, sanity or emotional wellbeing of me and mine.

      Why should I consider that anyone…even my own family…”being dead” completely and utterly invalidates those considerations ?

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