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You can take recycling too far

17 January, 2008

I have carried an organ donor card for over twenty years: to do so was an informed decision I made, of my own volition, and without any pressure, implied or otherwise.

 Choosing to leave your organs after your death – that someone else might live – has to be a voluntary act, entered into after thought and consideration. Whatever the government might like to think, human beings are not commodities, and our bodies should not be considered as a mere collection of spare parts, ready for recycling as soon as we have gasped our last.

Considering that this same government has shied away from the idea of compelling us (through a system of fines) to recycle our rubbish, it seems surprising that it feels less queasy about doing so in relation to our hearts, lungs and livers.

 But New Labour’s proposal to introduce the principle of informed consent should not surprise anyone, as it is constitutes the acme of state power and control – the Government will decide what to do with your heart or liver, not you, because Nanny knows best. 

This can be wrapped up any way you like: a measure to improve the availability of desperately-needed organs for transplant; an efficent way to make sure that people act in a way that politicians are sure they would – if they could be bothered – but don’t be fooled.

This is State Interference at its most profound level, claiming ownership of your not-yet-dead body (kept alive, to preserve the organs) and forcing you to act for the benefit of others through compulsion. Of course it would be better if we all carried donor cards, but I believe passionately that we, as citizens, have the right to self determination, the right to make our own decisions in life, provided they don’t actively harm others. And that includes the right to be selfish, if we choose.

What is more fundamental than the right to choose what happens to our very flesh, once it ceases to support our being?

This is not a debate about systems or process; it touches on the very cornerstone of our pesonal freedom and liberty: unless we actively sign up to donate our organs, it has to be assumed that we choose not to.

It may well be apathy in some cases, but a free society must allow people to be apathetic.

Let’s face it, the world would be a much better place if we all visited the elderly regularly: will this government start making a note of where we live in relation to old people, and fine us if we don’t improve their lives by visiting all those within a given locus? People must choose for themselves whether to act in the interests of others.

If this proposal becomes law, then I – after twenty years of carrying a donor card – will opt out, in protest.

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