Well I see that the debate about organ donation has reared its head again. My views have, if anything, hardened since I wrote on this subject last year. Please read that post before going on to read this update.
I am a liberal. As such, I sympathise with the view that the state should not have a right to take human organs after that person has died. However, I don’t agree with this.
The reason is this: dead people don’t have rights. They can’t. Because they’re dead. And as much as I would like to have a say over what happens to my body when I die, the reality is that I don’t have much choice in the matter. Maggots don’t care much about human rights, you see.
Rights and liberties can only be extended to people from the moment they are born until the moment they die. After all, it is a bit of a stretch to say that an unborn child has rights if the only thing she can do is wobble around inside a womb while being physically unable to be detached from her mother. And you certainly can’t take advantage of liberties when you’re dead because your only function will be to rot.
A common rebuttal is that although you will be dead, your next of kin won’t. But I never got the big whoop-de-doo over kinship anyway. If you’re married, then yes. But not so much with blood relatives. And if you have a major libertarian / individualist streak, chances are that you won’t marry. Many people dislike their relatives, and it is certainly a gigantic leap to say that their wishes are perfectly aligned with mine.
As such, the idea of having relatives make their decisions for me once I’m dead puts a chill up my spine as much as the idea of the state making them. For me, it is no more oppressive for the state to have an automatic right to my organs once I am dead than it is for my next of kin to.
And if the state has that access, it will be doing it to save the lives of dying people rather than just huffing about it with their arms folded. Besides which, I will find it very difficult to care either way, given that I will be dead and all.
(Not that I hate my relatives, you understand. The point I’m trying to make is that when I’m dead I don’t get a say anyway, so it makes no difference to me who makes these decisions, whether it’s the state, relatives, or complete strangers.)
The question that this organ donation hoo-ha asks is this: Should the rights of the dying be put ahead of the rights of those who are already dead? The answer is surely ‘yes’.
Interesting posts from both sides of the debate: