Saturday, September 05, 2009

Organ donation without consent

Cass Sunstein
Here is more food for thought on the controversy over the concept of 'Presumed Consent" or an "Opt-out system" of organ donation. Readers can make their own minds up about the issue and we thank Pundit and Pundette for this post on their excellent blog.

Friday, September 4, 2009
Pundit & Pundette
"I’ve written before about attempts by institutions to change cultural norms by creating default options which “nudge” the masses in the direction desired by the elites. I called it “horribly insidious: a subtle extension of the nanny state where numerous decisions are pre-made and pre-packaged for us, and the exact opposite of what it once meant to be an American: independent-minded and self-determining.”

This proposal concerning our organs, made by Obama’s “regulation czar” in his 2008 book, is an outrage, amounting to organ donation without consent:

Cass Sunstein, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), has advocated a policy under which the government would “presume” someone has consented to having his or her organs removed for transplantation into someone else when they die unless that person has explicitly indicated that his or her organs should not be taken.

Under such a policy, hospitals would harvest organs from people who never gave permission for this to be done.

Outlined in the 2008 book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness,” Sunstein and co-author Richard H. Thaler argued that the main reason that more people do not donate their organs is because they are required to choose donation.

Sunstein and Thaler pointed out that doctors often must ask the deceased’s family members whether or not their dead relative would have wanted to donate his organs. These family members usually err on the side of caution and refuse to donate their loved one’s organs.

“The major obstacle to increasing [organ] donations is the need to get the consent of surviving family members,” said Sunstein and Thaler.

Read on. This idea is a real horror. It has nothing whatever to do with the merits of organ transplants or a person’s beliefs regarding this personal issue. It’s about one group making the decision for others.

Sunstein elaborates on the concept of “nudging”:

“We think that it’s time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gently nudging them in directions that will make their lives better,” they wrote.

“…The human brain is amazing, but it evolved for specific purposes, such as avoiding predators and finding food,” said Thaler and Sunstein. “Those purposes do not include choosing good credit card plans, reducing harmful pollution, avoiding fatty foods, and planning for a decade or so from now. Fortunately, a few nudges can help a lot.

Very progressive I’m sure. But what gives one entity — especially the government — the right to nudge an individual, through default options built into regulations and laws, toward a particular course of action? Who are they to make a judgment on our credit cards, our snacks, or our kidneys? The whole “nudge” concept presupposes that one group knows what’s best for the rest of us. It’s elitist to the core.”

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register

In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register

Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.

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