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Nova Scotia considers presumed consent for organ donation

“Once you have presumed consent you have added pressure" to declare a patient dead and harvest his organs, an expert warns.
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By Colin Kerr

By Colin Kerr

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, April 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) –– The Nova Scotia Health Minister stated on Thursday that the province is considering reversing its organ donation procedure to one that presumes consent of the deceased, something one expert has said “would give more power to the unethical physician.”

Minister Leo Glavine said that he will soon initiate a formal consultation process on the subject but has provided no specifics about the timeline.

According to “presumed consent” legislation, everyone who has died and not signified that he does not wish to be a donor is considered no different than someone who signed an organ donor card.

“The biggest issue with presumed consent is that somebody then makes the decision for you about something that is very personal,” Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews.

Although the media have focused on the issue of the rights of the patients versus that of families, little attention has been paid to the issues of quality of care and premature declarations of death.

Does organ donation increase pressure on the terminally ill and their families? Would palliative care for the dying being sacrificed for sake of the needs of those on donor lists?

Schadenberg said that there are even cases where a person is being considered for organ donation who is not actually dying. “Once you have presumed consent you have added pressure" to declare a patient dead and harvest his organs. "Now the decision is, do we treat this person as an organ donor or help them get better?”

“Some doctors have bought into the concept of quality of life,” and so do not view the matter of one of life and death issue, but as a matter of a better life taking priority over what they deem to be a worse life. “You are giving the unethical physician even more power.”

“He is the one who gets cover from this. He is the one who is going to push the boundaries even further,” he warned. “You don’t want to give more ammunition to an unethical physician.”

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It is doubtful that a consultation process will yield the sort of consensus organ donation advocates desire, as the idea has consistently proven quite unpopular among Canadians.

Presumed consent law is operative in several European countries, and has only resulted in a modest increase in the actual donation rate. The country with the highest organ donor rate with a presumed consent law is Spain, which has approximately 31 donors per million, compared to Canada with a rate of 13 per million.

A few American states have flirted with such a law but to date presumed consent is not operative anywhere in the U.S.


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