Getting your organs tied up in red tape


Here’s a nice illustration of the (hidden) costs of red tape. I’ve just signed up to let everyone know that I’m happy if they use bits of me for better purposes than feeding maggots if I’m dead. The letter I received with my card says that the details of my decision “are protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and can only be accessed by authorised personnel within the organ donation network who have signed confidentiality agreements covering your personal information.”

Y ou can just imagine it can’t you? An emergency – someone needs to know if I consent to giving some organ away and some bureaucrat wants to know if they’ve got the right approval. This will be administered by people who only half know the law of privacy anyway, so they’ll have a bunch of rules and whenever anyone says ‘that’s silly isn’t it?’ someone will say ‘Yeah mate. It’s the Privacy Act’ – even if it isn’t.

For the record I don’t care who knows that I’m happy to part with my Bone Tissue, Eye Tissue, Heart Valve, Kidneys, Liver, Lungs, Pancreas, Skin Tissue once I’m through with them. So if I’m lying in the gutter seriously dead – go for your life. I guess some people might care about privacy, but then they could put that on their record couldn’t they!

Funny isn’t it how I had to tick all those bits of me off – rather than give a general permission. And what happens if someone wants my heart – and I’ve only given permission for them to have it’s valves? Or if someone finds a new medical use for hair follicles or some damn thing and I haven’t given permission to use it.

And someone will die to protect the privacy of someone who doesn’t want it protected. We just don’t know who or when and probably won’t even know after the event.  The best way to handle this would be by way of positive default.  That is if you happen to be dead meat, it should be assumed that you don’t mind helping others out but that you can ‘opt out’.  But I accept that that proposal (alone among the proposals here) might be politically difficult – though I think it’s been done in other countries in the North of Europe.

And by the way, I really really hope they make sure I’m dead. If there was a box to tick saying ‘Don’t let a utilitarian decide if I’m dead enough’ I would have ticked it.

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16 years ago

When I’m gone, I won’t need any bits and pieces so if they can be used to help other people, then use them by all means! I’ve never understood why, at least previously, the deceased person’s family had a veto over an individual’s wishes about whether organs could be donated. It seemed selfish.

I told my parents a few years ago that given the silly veto rule that then existed (I don’t know if it still exists) I wanted my organs to be donated if that situation arose.

I don’t understand the privay thing either.

16 years ago

While waiting to collect my mobile phone from the repair shop, the tech unsavvy customer in the next line asked for assistance in saving/downloading all his information before handing over the phone.

Instead of saying ‘that would take too much of my time’, she told him that the Privacy Act prevented her from viewing his photos/music etc.

Congratulations on getting the card BTW, odd to see they are still using that list. Perhaps it is so heavy drinkers can alert the authorities to the fact that some organs may be very well used.

Otherwise I think it is starnge that someone could be happy for the part of the body to be reused but not say their eyes or pancreas.

16 years ago

You got a card??! Think yourself lucky. I and Mrs Bannerman have been on the register for quite some time now and all we got was a letter saying thanks.

16 years ago

Getting on to the register and getting a card seemed to me an unnecessarily bureacratic process, having to fill out a form to get on to the register and then another one to confirm that I wanted to go on to the register, apart from having to remember to post the letters.

I thought it was all rather stupid – what bits can you take with you, after all – but was forced to review that position when I watched my, until then, rational family deal with the issue of organ removal from a deceased loved one. It happened but it was handy to have such a specific prior approval in place.

16 years ago

It should be done as a matter of course. No need for cards that way.

derrida derider
derrida derider
16 years ago

Yeah, I’m always amazed that people think the family should have any say in it – whose body is it anyways once you’re dead?

I think refusing permission for a dead body to be used to save a living one is a deeply immoral act – too wicked to be excused by grief.


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