Lewis Goodall comments on the opt-out organ donation proposal. At last, some bold progressive thinking from the Brown government. Attempting to shake off the malaise that gripped what is being perceived in some quarters as his increasingly embattled administration during the dying weeks of 2007, the Prime Minister has got the New Year off to a good start by unveiling his new policies on organ donation over the weekend. Heeding the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, the government is proposing that everyone should be presumed to give consent for their organs to be used after death to save the lives of others. This is a reversal from the current ‘opt-in’ situation where a person has to give their permission before death and quite different from those of Continental Europe where the ‘opt-in’ approach is still the method of choice. In 2008 it is estimated that 8,000 people will wait for organs (a number increasing by around 8% a year), but a mere 3,000 will actually receive a transplant. 10,000 more could have their sight saved or long-term disease cured. Many die after a long period of appalling suffering, just waiting for someone – anyone – to show a bit of compassion and generosity. To most people, the way forward seems obvious and according to opinion polls – it is. 90% of people favour organ donation. Interestingly, only 25% actually get around to doing it. The government’s proposals overcome that most intractable problem: apathy. In so doing, an extra 1,000 people could be saved each year. Someone once said (well, Stalin actually) that one life mattered but 1,000 was just a statistic. The next time the Church of England, the Daily Mail and other narrow minded right-groups choose to criticise the scheme on the grounds of immorality (the war-cry has already emerged from the Bishop of Southwark) they would do well to remember that these are people’s fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. These aren’t Cold War statistics – these are people. I ask the aforementioned Bishop: where exactly is the morality in condoning the death of thousands for the sake of some lofty arcane relic of theological principle? The bottom line is plain for all to see – the dead do not need their organs. We should seize the one positive that can possibly come from death: life for others. Equally objectionable to me is the idea that somehow an opt-out system of organ donation is the latest devilish wheeze in the so-called Nanny State’s unending quest to see and control all. Conservative blogger Iain Dale talks of ‘Brown wanting to nationalise our bodies’, sentiments echoed by Tory Health Spokesman Andrew Lansley. How quickly the ‘new’ Cameronite Conservative Party retreats to its old sins, pandering to their reactionary base and thundering on about points of facetious ideology on the rights of the state over its citizens’ bodies. Were it a totally compulsory system, one might see some truth in this; as the proposals stand however, should a citizen find the idea of saving another’s life after death totally repugnant, they need only tick a box and the thought need never cross their minds again. If Cameron’s brand of ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ were worth the time of day they would and should support the measure when the time comes in the House of Commons. Critics point out, four years ago, the government had precisely the opposite position, bleating about the immorality of such proposals. Tony Blair himself led the campaign against such a measure. However, Blair is history now and a sinner that repenteth is welcomed. Whether for reasons of politics or compassion (perhaps both) Brown has finally seen the light. All those that value human life should welcome his conversion.This comment represents the views of the writer and not of Cherwell24
Oxford University welcomed Committee members from Polish Societies across the country this weekend for the ‘Leading Our Future’ event, a Congress organised by students at the universities of Oxford and St Andrews. Professor Zbigniew Pelczynski, former tutor at Pembroke, hosted some 60 students on the three-day event, which featured discussion panels, group workshops and leadership training. Guest speakers included Oxford graduate and current Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radek Sikorski, and Professor Leszek Kolakowski, Senior Research Fellow at All Souls.