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Thursday, April 29, 2010

New York's Mandatory Organ Donor Bill Is An Affront to Liberty

By Daryl Luna, Editor at:
*In Defense of the Constitution*

An alarming movement is afoot in New York. Already New Yorkers are told what they can eat and how they can defend themselves (among other things). Now they may lose total control of their bodies. Legislation is being proposed that will create mandatory "organ donor" status for all residents of the Empire State.

On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. One may ask , "What's wrong with everyone being an organ donor?" But the issue is more than one of organ donor status; the mandatory nature of the legislation is what makes this bill so appalling.

The decision to donate part of one's body is a personal one in which the government has no legitimate role. Aside from violating the decisions regarding one's own body, this law could easily violate religious liberty. A number of religions and religious sects have adherents who refuse to separate organs from the body based on religious conviction.

Agree with them or not, we should all be concerned when religious liberty is at stake. Indeed, this continent has been purposed for such liberty since the landing of the Pilgrims. So as a CBS article notes, "Legal experts said if the law is passed, it will likely face challenges in court from family members or some religious groups."

Another concern beyond that of basic personal liberty is one of ethics. There is no problem with assisting the ill through the donation of organs, but there is a possible ethical dilemma in a "blank check" approach to how organs are used.

With expanding experimental research and the changing cultural tides, questionable usage of one's organs is a real and prevalent concern. If one cannot be guaranteed their organs will be ethically used, the problems with the New York legislation multiplies. Truly, we must protect freedom of conscience.

The issue at hand in New York is not one of organ donation; rather, it is a battle over personal liberty. It is the latest front in a battle over individuals and their unalienable property rights.

If the state wants to make it easier for people to sign up as organ donors, educate citizens on the matter, or do something similar, that is completely permissible. But if they want to violate the personal decisions, religious liberty, or ethical concerns of its citizens, this should be fought against at every turn.


  1. I had to debate for mandatory organ donation once. Blood hard but I won. I don't support it on grounds of personal liberty, but here is the rough outline of what I argued:

    Article 29b of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
    "In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society."

    A 1000 people die every year in the UK waiting for organs. In France and Spain, which are opt-out, only a few hundred die.

    The general welfare of the people of the State supersedes your right to retain organs upon death. Equally, it can be argued you have no autonomy regarding your organs upon death, because, well, you're dead. The State can already dictate where and how you are disposed of once you are dead, as well as taking a share of your capital when you are alive. It is only a step further for it to claim a 'body tax' on top of inheritance tax.

    The argument from religion is largely false. All major religions support organ donation. Only fringe sects are opposed to it.

    And to fully destroy your religious stance, the High Court has finally ruled that it is not a valid argument: Lord Justice Laws [an ironic name] has ruled legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds cannot be justified.

    He said it was irrational and "also divisive, capricious and arbitrary". [admittedly this applies to the UK only, and your US Constitution is different to our system]


    There are only 2 real arguments against this:

    Kantian ethics (the ends do not justify the means, so saving lives is not greater than the violation of personal liberty)

    and that autonomy is retained upon death (in which case, inheritance tax and laws on burial are also potential illegal)

  2. If we're going to presume people are organ donors unless they opt out, there needs to be a reward for not opting out. Donated organs should be allocated first to those who haven't opted out. People who opt out of organ donation should go to the back of the transplant waiting list. The United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

    Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

    According to a new survey by Donate Life America 43 percent of people are undecided, reluctant or do not wish to have their organs and tissue donated after their deaths. Is this because Americans don't know there is an organ shortage? No. The survey also reports that 78 percent realize there are more people who need organ transplants in the U.S. than the number of donated organs available.

    Just about every single one of the 43% of Americans who aren't willing to register as organ donors would accept an organ transplant if they needed one to live. As long as we let non-donors jump to the front of the waiting list when they need transplants we'll always have an organ shortage.

    David J. Undis
    Executive Director

  3. Actually, a logical argument against this is that it's equivant to mugging. See the article "Liberal Progressive Muggers."

  4. Dave: I think you bring up a fair point. If people are unwilling to contribute to the process, they should not receive a favored position. The opposite should be the case.

    Hughman: I see the point of what you argued but it fails on a number of fronts.

    1. A reliance on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is poor strategy. It is a document that holds no sovereignty and little sanity. It is not particularly pro-liberty, relies on corporate rather than individual rights, and holds just as much weight as a group of folks agreeing on the best fast-food restaurant. It has number behind it but not force.

    2. You've already touched on the afterlife element. As long as we believe in the dignity of humankind and the ability to leave inheritance, any argument regarding losing liberty in regards to one's death wish is misinformed.

    3. Any argument based on greater good backed by corporate rights is ridiculous and flies in the face of individual rights protection. China would be okay with such notions. The US would not. Like Adam Smith taught, the greater good is only truly met when each pursues his own interest. On its surface this may sound cold or false, but when probed it is found to be true time and time again.

    4. The purpose of religious liberty protection is not to protect the majority; such needs no protection. It is to protect the rights of the minority which warrant its protection. And the US Constitution protects such. As for the High Court, so often it has refused to take stands for liberty; this case is no different.

    So I would argue that you are right in your two arguments. But there are more than two, by far.

  5. Agreed, in the US, I have no case. (plus my opponents sucked, they totally failed to emphasise personal liberty) Ironically our laws are best described as 'opt-in' as well. Anything goes unless said otherwise. (whilst America is 'opt-out', there are set parameters under the Constitution, and it's a pain to do anything to them)

    However, in the UK, due to our National Health Service, the greater good is considered to be more important than personal liberty in most situations. Hence massive control over anything 'potentially harmful'. Tobacco is almost banned now, alcohol will go the same way once it stops making net profit to the State, we have no acceptance of drug legalisation (see 'uproar' in the main media on mephedrone, when the New Scientist and our fringe liberal media were opposed to banning it - once the State runs out of money, again, they'll legalise drugs to reduce policing bills and raise tax revenues). We have no right to bare arms. Draconian driving laws. The only thing we're missing is the PATRIOT Act - which luckily our liberal and conservative politicians do unite on to defeat when the socialists try to bring it in.

    The only reason why we're still opt-in is because the damage it would do to doctor-patient relationships. Most people are idiots and don't realise the harm they are doing by not putting themselves forward. (there's a distrust in scientists because they do in all fairness do a lot of stuff without consent) It will take years to be opt-out, as it took in France and Spain.

  6. I don't believe that it is Constitutional to deny certain government services to citizens unless they agree to sign papers relating to the harvesting of their organs. People should be permitted to move about freely (drive a car)in a free country without having to agree to surrender their organs first.
    My concern is about where this slippery slope will lead. How long will it take for our government to require one kidney from each living person and mandatory blood donations every year. I have actually heard it suggested by one creepy individual that no drivers licenses should be issued to those who do not donate blood annually. This will become communist China. Also, I would be willing to bet that Big Pharma is behind this. Lots of money is made on anti-rejection drugs, and these are lifetime customers. Anyone who thinks that this isn't mostly about big business, is just naive. The government and big business are one in the same. I don't think that what I choose to do with my organs is any of the government's business. And they darn well better not try to take them while I'm still alive.

  7. people should be harvested alive if the recipient can afford the fee. can really make a profit then, sell left over parts as meat. people will fall on each other like wolves on lambs.

  8. Some people are so uneducated on Organ Donation it is ridiculous. Daryl you should do more research on the matter before writing an article like this. You don't even know what you are talking about. This new Bill will change organ donation in this country and make it easier to donate and save lives. That is what this is about SAVING LIVES! Also all major religions are for organ donation, so I don't even understand what you are saying about losing religious liberty. This is about everyone in the country well now just the state being an organ donor, unless they opt out. If you don't want to be a donor then opt out. It is as easy as that. You have a choice and you aren't forced to do anything. This just makes it easier when a traumatic event happens in a persons life, the family doesn't have to make such a huge decision when grieving. The decision was made by the deceased before death by not opting out. It is an amazing thing to see hope and life come from such a devastating event. Organ donation is a wonderful and miraculous thing and no one should put it down or demean it.

  9. "If the state wants to make it easier for people to sign up as organ donors, educate citizens on the matter, or do something similar, that is completely permissible. But if they want to violate the personal decisions, religious liberty, or ethical concerns of its citizens, this should be fought against at every turn."

  10. As a heart recipient, I think opt- out is the way to go. It creates an instant need for people to educate themselves about transplants and donation. There is never enough money for non-profits like organ dononation organizations to educate everyone. As far as making non- donors go to the end of the list, that is possibly killing people just because they made a bad decision. The list works as is...those in greatest need go first. As far as this being about drug companies, my kids would be without their mom without all the expensive drugs I take. You can argue that pharmaceutical companies make a ton of money off their drugs and you'd be right. But funeral homes take just as much advantage of dead people and their families, and you sure don' t get as much out of your cash there. Just a thought... There is an issue here, but I think the issue is education. If folks have to make an effort to opt-out, it gives us pro- donation people a chance to answer their questions, put the truth to any crazy myths that people believe ( such as doctors will let you die to get your organs), and give them the facts about all the people dying to get organs. I know. I watched the doorway to a room on my hospital wing, and saw first the usual, nurses, family, then, doctors, whispers, cries of anguish, many family members hugging and collapsing on one another... in the time that I waited for my heart, a man died waiting for his. Thousands of people matching him probably died in accidents or other ways during that time but they had not madecthemselves organ donors either because they didn' t know to, or because they believed in some paranoid myth they had heard.
    Opting out would force people to become educated in a way that opting in can't. Those who now opt in are already educated. How can making an opportunity for informed decisions be a bad thing?