Is an Organ Donation Opt-Out System Ethical?

Organ donation has always been a very personal topic and many families would rather never think about a time when their loved one may die, let alone talk openly about whether they want to donate their organs or not. Unfortunately, many wait until the hospital’s organ procurement department ask them directly – just as their loved one is dying. For that reason, many hospitals have begun adopting an organ donation opt-out system rather than opt-in.

Opt-In vs. Opt-Out Organ Donation
The difference between opt-in and opt-out organ donation is that the former looks at consent to become an organ donor whereas the latter assumes you are an organ donor unless you (or your family) state otherwise. Many countries and individual states have agreed on the opt-in system to provide possible organ donors with making a more informed decision. The problem is that many people never think about organ donation and transplantation, let alone discuss it before their passing.

Due to the lack of communication, many countries and states have started to welcome an opt-out system of organ donation. Places, such as Ireland, have been recorded as having only one (1) organ donor per year. Through the new system, a person’s organs would automatically be harvested unless they specifically request for them not to be used in organ donation. Both hospitals and health professionals believe this new system will increase they rate of organ donation and save many lives without burdening the family left behind.

Although I am an organ donor and wife of a double lung transplant recipient, there are many moral and ethical implications of such an opt-out system. To state that a hospital has the authority to one’s body, to do with it as it pleases, may tend to make some believe that they are nothing but an object of possession. Others may see this as the first step to hospitals (or state governments) placing authority in the practice of living donors as well in the future.

What do you think? Should states and government be able to implement an opt-out system to organ donation? If so, are you an organ transplant recipient or on the waiting list for an organ transplant and feel such new regulations in organ donation may save your life? Do you think this crosses any ethical barriers or is perfectly ethical?

After her husband received a double-lung (bilateral) transplant in 2004, Shannon founded the Angel Cove Organ Donation Awareness Shop, which provides awareness t-shirts and gifts products for transplant recipients, living organ donors and donor families - giving 100% of the profits to help heart and lung transplant recipients with medical costs. Shannon lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her wonderful husband and two chocolate Labrador Retrievers.

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