Organ donations

Hello, it’s Leonardo here.

My first suggestion is the British government’s idea to change the way the organ donations system works.

Everyone would be placed on a register of donors and would need to opt out if they or their families objected.

There’s not a formal proposal yet, but the idea of “presumed consent” has been backed up by the British PM, Gordon Brown.

The argument in favour is that thousands of lives could be saved with more organs available for donation.

But this is a delicate matter and many will resent the state’s interference.

Michael Calwell has sent us this email:

How dare the state presume to involve itself in people’s lives (and deaths) on this level? How dare it presume to act on behalf of individuals, to make decisions for them like this? 

Do you agree with Michael? Is this the state abusing its power or just trying to save the lives of thousands of people waiting for transplants?

Tell us what you think, post here on the blog.


President Bush is arriving in Saudi Arabia today, coming from the United Arab Emirates and on his way to Egypt.

Iran will be on the agenda, the Palestinian-Israeli problem too.

But perhaps this is an opportunity for us to have a close look at Saudi Araba: democracy, religion (Wahabism), the rights of women, oil, terrorism.

Many of the people behind the September 11th attacks were Saudi citizens.

That of course includes Osama bin Laden, who regarded his country’s rulers as corrupt, subjected to the interests of the US.

The Independent, here in the UK, reminds us today of Fouad al-Farhan, Saudi’s most popular blogger, arrested in Jeddah last month.

He been writing under his real name, railing against the corruption of the royal family.

This arrest was most likely designed to scare the kingdom’s bloggers into line. But there has been no sign of that occurring so far. If anything, Saudi’s online activists appear to be emboldened.. These are early days, but the internet seems to be having a liberating effect in this most closed and repressive of reginmes. It will be fascinating to see where this online insurrection will end.

Is something rotten in the Kingdom of Saudi? To what exchange are things changing there? Send us your comments, post here on the blog?

15 Responses to “Organ donations”

  1. 1 steve
    January 14, 2008 at 12:40

    How Orwellian. I really wish EVERYONE would know that you cannot take vital organs from a corpse. They can only be removed from someone who still has a beating heart, meaning you’re not really “dead”. You didn’t just die from something and then they take them. The actual removal of the organs is what causes you to die, so if everyone is forced to be on this list, the government will be the causer of your death. This is utterly repulsive and I cannot believe people would stand for this, where the government determines when you die.

  2. 2 Brett
    January 14, 2008 at 12:44

    It would be nice to see everyones ideas on the organ donation system proposed by the UK.

    I myself am completely against this system. While I can see the benefits of it to save thousands of lives of people waiting for transplants, Michael is right, it is NOT up to the state what happens to our bodies when we die. In the US we either decide to become an organ donor or not when we register for our drivers liscenses. I am not sure how the UK goes about it, but this seems to be a straightforward way to get an answer from everyone (with a drivers liscense / ID card) about what they want to happen with their body when they die.

    If the UK does not have a system of identifying donors like the US, perhaps they should look into enacting one. Otherwise, maybe campaigning to get the amount of organ donors up could be in good order.

    I am an organ donor and am proud to be one in the event of my death. However, it is not up to the state to violate someones body who was maybe on the fence about organ donation or had not given a clear answer about becoming one.

    Also is there not a certain amount of time that the organs can be harvested? How then does the UK plan to handle a situation where family cannot be located immediately or at all? And is this plan for UK citizens only?

    This is an interesting idea to solver the thousands of people waiting for transplants. However, I could see this being a problem in that it may violate peoples religious or personal ideals.

    If I ever needed a transplant, I would want one from someone who specifically said “I want to be an organ donor”. Not one that the state made the call on and harvested organs from someones body. Organ donation and transplants are a VERY personal thing.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va

  3. 3 John D. Anthony
    January 14, 2008 at 12:45

    “Presumed consent” is a great topic.

    Saudi Arabia not so much… Been there, done that.

  4. 4 steve
    January 14, 2008 at 14:14

    Also, how much less motivated would doctors be to save someone’s life if they realize that this person could be harvested? This is a road we shouldn’t go down. People shoudl be required to consent prior to this. This presumed consent is orwelian. What other rights would you be prepared to give up? And don’t give me the “opt out” thing. Most people aren’t even going to be aware of this, or won’t make the effort because they won’t think it could happen to them. It’s kind of like why manufacturers offer rebates, because they realize most people won’t make the effort to get the rebate.

  5. 5 Z.K.
    January 14, 2008 at 15:38

    Hi WHYS team,

    Just throwing this out there, but this really got on my nerves today. Might not make a good story, but hey, if India, cricket and racism can take up an hour I figure this has a shout.

    Are non-Americans really that apathetic about the U.S. elections, especially young people? In today’s Straits Times, survey findings from a group of 60 students aged 15 to 26 in Singapore found that about two-thirds don’t care.

    I’m 18, and take a really active interest in international affairs, so this really bugs me. Three people asked think Obama’s female, 11 didn’t know; 27 thought John Edwards is Republican (only 9 got it right); 21 people thought Bush isn’t running again because “no one likes him” (only 14 knew his term is up), and seven people said Bill and Hillary Clinton are siblings!

    Most of them felt the elections would have no impact on our small island. Of course, this clearly isn’t the case, as Singapore has a free-trade agreement with the ! United States and is rather influential within ASEAN for the U.S. (as demonstrated, for example, with the Burma situation last year).

    I’d like to know if this phenomenon of young people not caring (and not even knowing simple things – someone said Bill was Hillary’s father!) extends to other countries, or whether the youth of my country are just too dumb?

    So, there’s my suggestion for a possible discussion on WHYS soon.

    Anyway, looking forward to tonight’s show.


  6. 6 Tinuviel Sampson
    January 14, 2008 at 15:39

    Hello BBC

    The topic – biofuel vs food- is fascinating. It is a huge topic that ties in the entire modern lifestyle and should have much more than a 5 minute story dedicated to it.

    A few points to consider and part of the overall world ecological devastation.

    1. Mono-cropping has historically been an environmental hazard – as the current clear cutting of Indonesian land for palm oil has proven yet again. We as a species need to find a better solution in ANY/ALL of our farming/production needs than mono-cropping for immediate financial satisfaction.

    2. The illusion of comparing the Mexican corn tortilla and Iowa corn production by discussing the two in nearly the same sentence is misleading. Corn production in Iowa is feed corn for pigs and cows with a current trend of re-allocating some crops toward biofuel production.
    This will affect the future price of meat, not of tortillas.

    3. Meat production consumes significantly more land and water usage than vegetable products. The world population should aim to minimize their meat intake and processed foods. This would result both in better overall health AND a redistribution of land and water usage. There could possibly be enough to grow both sufficient vegetable food (tortilla as one small example) and biofuel for world consumption.

    I am not an expert in land and water usage issues but what I see happening is unsustainable and we need to take responsibility as consumers and citizens of the world in our lifestyle habits.

    The link below is a fascinating article by Michael Pollan on the food aspect of this topic.


    thank you

    Tinuviel Sampson
    Berwick, Maine, USA

  7. 7 Muhammad Asim Munir
    January 14, 2008 at 15:46

    Hi WHYS!

    I hope you all are fine.

    Mr. Bush and democracy are two separate things. If he were democratic he would have been caught Osama Bin Laden rather than destroying Afghanistan and Iraq using the label of Osama and using sympathies of people for US.
    Intervention into Saudi Arabia would cause same sort of results what have been produced in Pakistan and especially Iraq. Iraqis are paying the price of democracy introduced by Mr. Bush using bombs.

    Forgive Saudi Arabia and Don’t play with the peace of the world.

    With Regards,

    Muhammad Asim Munir
    Gujranwala, Pakistan.

  8. January 14, 2008 at 16:11


    A person’s body is their property and responsibility. They alone have the right to chose what they do with it – in life or death. If they forget to fill a donor card before they die, it is not up to the government to chop that body to pieces for they own purposes.

  9. 9 VictorK
    January 14, 2008 at 16:20

    The governments’s compulsory organ donation proposal is respulsive, but in keeping with the hankering of left-liberal parties for ‘virtue-induced totalitarianism.’ At times like this I envy the Americans their genuinely constitutional and limited government, versus our subjection to obsessive and unrepresentative crackpots (they’re also raving about votes for 16 year olds) for whom the old constitutional maxim that ‘Parliament is supreme’ means that Parliament owns the people and may do with them as it will. Not even a dictator like Saddam treated his people like a nation of slaves with no say over the fate of their individual corpses. A hateful proposal from a repulsive socialist government.

    George Bush needs to mind his own business about Saudi Arabia and not bore his hosts with sermons on democracy etc. His impertinence has led to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan (with a huge helping hand from Iraqis and Afghans, of course). Democracy is not a panacea. It’s not suited to all peoples. It’s not the only effective or acceptable form of government. And in the middle east enforcing democracy will largely mean booting out regimes that are prepared to work with the US and replacing them Labour-style democratic tyrannies driven by fantaical obsessions for whom democracy will be the means to the end of talibanisation. If Bush still doesn’t understand this then he really is as thoughtless as his critics claim. It is not the responsibility of any Western government to improve life for anyone in the middle east: we must leave the people of that region to work out their own destinies.

  10. 10 gary
    January 14, 2008 at 16:40

    Hello All,
    Concerning organ donations: Mike is correct to ask: ” How dare they?” The answer is simple: A living person owns their organs. A dead person does not. However, ownership does not automatically transfer to relatives, nor does it to the state. Each of these entities has an obligation to accommodate the needs of the other. Please notice I use “obligation.” The dead person’s loved ones must consider the lives they curtail or diminish by forbidding organ donation, and the state must allow them the right to be so selfish.

  11. 11 steve
    January 14, 2008 at 17:06

    As a lawyer, you learn that people have no property rights in their bodies. This is why you generally cannot sell your organs in common law countries. If you have a problem with that, then challenge the system to say that you have property rights in your own body. But it really does kind of seem weird, what would you have property rights if you don’t even have them in your own body? So property seems like a joke if we don’t own our own bodies. However, the state even if we do not own our bodies, doesn’t own it either, and the state is playing God by forcing you to donate your organs, because the harvesting of your organs IS the cause of your death. They cannot remove vital organs from a corpse. They do not survive the shock of death. So each time the organs are removed, the state has killed the person under this system. Sounds likes something the nazis would do.

  12. 12 Captain-In-The-Dock
    January 14, 2008 at 17:45

    Just repeating two aspects of this issue from what I’ve said on HYS:

    Added: Sunday, 13 January, 2008, 14:26 GMT

    Opt-in or opt-out: both have pros & cons. Cardinal principle must be: respect the individual’s choice. A person is convinced that it’s OK to donate organs but doesn’t do so just out of spite. That too is that person’s choice!

    Opt-out system: Biggest problem is the sanctity & veracity of data.

    Finding 5,000 IFO’s (Illegal Foreign Officers in Security!) & often losing personal data of millions puts a big Q on capability.

    Perhaps capability to manage faultlessly should be addressed first!?

    Captain In-the-Dock, Lost ‘n’ Found in Britain

    Added: Monday, 14 January, 2008, 16:14 GMT

    The debate over opt-in or opt-out is essentially one of CHOICE. Many say that:
    *Organs are of no use to you once you’re dead.
    *Think about the life you are going to save or prolong, etc.

    These are the emotional or humane sides of the argument. The govt. is talking about NHS saving money which is OK insofar as the savings make NHS more efficient or better.

    Why don’t I see anyone EMOTIONALLY targeting transplant SURGEONS (NHS/private) for gratis operations?? They’re going to make millions!

    Captain In-the-Dock, Lost ‘n’ Found in Britain

    Exposing the money-grubbing aspect of this issue is proven by this post:

    Added: Monday, 14 January, 2008, 16:28 GMT 16:28 UK

    My family has not had a positive experiance with organ stealers. I am the only survivor of a house fire.

    As I lay in ICU one of my children was also in ICU (my other son having already passed away.) The organ people who had been hovering over him (and me) approached my husband. He said no. They then went to my parents and said that my husband had said yes, but they needed an “extra” signature.

    This is how far these people were willing to go. They cared nothing about our family. $$$$$ only!

    K Tyson, Mobile, United States

    Horrifying! Isn’t it??!!

  13. 13 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    January 14, 2008 at 18:24

    Personally, I would support organ donation wholeheartedly, unequivocally, & every-which-way IF:

    No PROFIT was involved in the ENTIRE PROCESS! That is:

    -The potential donor goes through a thought process & finally concludes that it IS a good act on his/her part to DONATE his/her organs. Emphasis is on the word donate (see the Latin root). What I mean is that the donor receives no monetary or other compensation.

    -The transplant SURGEON & all medical staff involved ALSO receive no monetary or other compensation.

    -The volunteers or the people who convince & educate people on organ donation ALSO receive no monetary or other compensation.

    -The lawyers & everyone else involved in any way also receive no monetary or other compensation.

    -The cost of doing the operation in terms of the cost of buying & maintaining hospital equipment comes out of a fully transparent, ‘auditable-by-anybody-at-any-time’, country-wide or world-wide charity.

    My friends! Tell me is this possible! My answer is poppycock!

    What is the moral of the story?

    As long as any wage or profit is involved the human animal will twist everything & anything for gain!

    MaxMaximilianMaximusI, Indian Caesar in, Singapore

  14. 14 Syed Hasan Turabs
    January 14, 2008 at 21:43

    Because of Commercial Medical, organ transplant business is booming no doubt we have some herbal treatment choices too, any way religion dose’nt allow this organ business because of the medical crimes possibility with helthy poor fellows of our society.

  15. 15 Nisha
    January 15, 2008 at 12:30

    If I or someone I love desperately needed an organ translpant to survive, I would be only too grateful if there was an organ available to question how and where it came from. If a person truly doesn’t want to donate, they don’t have to. And if they are that opposed to it, the family would surely know about it and would prevent the organ donation anyway.

    Some people, like me, are just too lazy to register for organ donation, even if they want to. This move could help save many lives, because organ donation is a truly noble deed, but not a common enough occurance. The family and loved ones of the doners would have the final say, and would, after all, have the best interests of the patient at heart.

    If I lay dying, or would be a vegetable or faced a similar fate for the rest of my life as the result of an accident, I would rather have my organs donated to another person who could lead a healthier life rather than suffer for the rest of my days.

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