Proposed law in Germany would make every citizen an organ donor
GERMANY, January 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life organizations, as well as the German Bishops’ Conference, have come out strongly against a proposed law that would make everybody living in Germany an organ donor by default.
Currently, people in Germany may sign up to be an organ donor, and only then would their organs be harvested at some point in the future. The new law would turn that process around: a person would have to object explicitly and in writing to being an organ donor.
Members of parliament are set to debate the bill, as well as one alternative which is considered by pro-life groups to be much better, on Thursday, January 16, 2020, in Berlin. The vote is likely to take place before noon (local time). The official schedule allows for more than two and a half hours of debate.
The proposed law is being dubbed the “objection solution” (Widerspruchslösung), and is championed by Jens Spahn, the openly homosexual health minister of the current government. Like Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spahn is a member of the Christian Democratic Union.
LifeSiteNews talked to representatives of several pro-life organizations in Germany, who shared their concerns about the “objection solution.” They said the alternative proposal introduced by Annalena Baerbock of the Green Party and other members of parliament is much better.
Under that proposal, nobody will automatically become an organ donor by default.
All pro-life organizations criticized the lack of a consideration of the concept of brain death in the “objection solution.”
Medical doctors and scholars of various backgrounds maintain that only when a person’s heart stops beating and his breathing ceases for a determinate amount of time can it be said that death has truly occurred. According to those experts, the mere loss of brain function does not constitute death.
Degrading the human body ‘to a spare parts depot’
Alexandra Linder is the chairwoman of the German pro-life group “Bundesverband Lebensrecht” (BVL), an umbrella organization uniting many other German pro-life entities. Every year, BVL runs the March for Life in Berlin.
Linder told LifeSiteNews that the proposed law “contradicts the right of self-determination” and would lead to “a virtual obligation imposed by the state to give up your organs.”
While the term “self-determination” is often used by advocates of abortion or euthanasia, Linder uses it as a legal term based on the German constitution. Accordingly, the “right of self-determination” refers to the constitution’s assertion, “Every person shall have the right to free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or the moral law.”
Additionally, the “objection solution” no longer leaves relatives with the option to help decide if and when it is the case that organs may be harvested, explained Linder. They would only be asked if there ever was a written objection to organ donation.
Like BVL, “Ärzte für das Leben” (ÄfdL) mentioned the fact that the “objection solution” disregards the right of self-determination. Paul Cullen, president of this group of pro-life doctors, went even further in his comments, stating, “It infringes upon the right to physical integrity.”
ÄfdL wrote a three-page letter to all members of parliament back in June 2019, urging them not to vote for the “objection solution.”
Cornelia Kaminski, head of “Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle” (ALfA) – another well-known German pro-life organization – emphasized that organ donation always has to be a voluntary act. As Kaminski explained, the “objection solution” would “lead to a socialization of the body and degrade [it] to a spare parts depot.”
“Christdemokraten für das Leben” (CDL) is the pro-life group within the Christian Democratic Union. Even though Jens Spahn is a member of the party, CDL emphasized they “reject [the bill] in its entirety.” Organ donation has to be voluntary, as the word “donation” suggests, CDL explained in a statement.
The statement goes on, “In an open as well as free and democratic society, especially the process of dying should be removed from the active intervention of the state. The decision for or against an organ donation should remain voluntary.”
Cardinal Marx promotes organ donation but says Church has ‘significant legal and ethical concerns’ about proposed law
Even the German Bishops’ Conference, known within the Catholic Church for its heterodoxy, opposes the “objection solution.”
Reinhard Cardinal Marx, the liberal head of the German Bishops’ Conference, said in September 2019, “Organ donation, which for many people is the only option to save their life, deserves highest recognition from a Christian perspective as an act of charity and solidarity beyond death.”
Marx went on to quote Pope Francis, who had called organ donation “an act of social responsibility” and “an expression of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, uniting all men and women with each other.”
At the same time, the Church has “significant legal and ethical concerns” about the “objection solution,” Marx acknowledged.
He, too, emphasized that an organ donation has to be voluntary.
Even German bishops considered especially liberal, like Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, have come out against the “objection solution.” Overbeck has shown his openness to having women “priests,” as well ending priestly celibacy at least in some cases.
The bishop has also apologized for a strong statement against homosexuality he made on German television many years ago. Back then, he said, “Homosexuality is sin.” Now, he advocates for a so-called development in moral theology concerning questions of homosexuality.
Problems with ‘brain death’ diagnosis
In December 2019, representatives of both the German Bishops’ Conference and the “Evangelical Church in Germany” wrote to all members of parliament, warning them about the problems of the “objection solution.”
The alternative law proposed by, among others, Annalena Baerbock of the Green Party and Ursula von der Leyen – now President of the European Commission in Brussels – was referred to by Cardinal Marx as “containing remarkable recommendations.”
The goal of the Baerbock proposal is to foster a regular examination of the question of organ donation. People would be encouraged to register their decision, either for or against organ donation, in a database. That decision could be changed at any time.
BVL chairwoman Linder characterized such an examination of the issue of organ donation as sensible, “since indeed everybody should think about it and talk to their relatives about what is desired in case they can’t make a decision on their own anymore.”
ALfA and ÄfdL agreed that the Baerbock proposal is the preferred bill to be voted on during the morning session of the debate on Thursday.
Cornelia Kaminski of ALfA explained, “You don’t have to like the ‘nudging’ going along with this proposed law, but at the same time [it] doesn’t force anybody to make a decision.” The nudging refers to certain propositions of the law, such as the suggestion family doctors have a conversation concerning organ donation with patients every two years.
CDL, the pro-life group of Christian Democratic politicians, “explicitly supports” the Baerbock proposal, pointing out that the relatives still are involved in the process of somebody being an organ donor.
Both the law proposed by Jens Spahn as well as that proposed by Annalena Baerbock never mention the term “brain death,” let alone its difficulty.
The statement given to LifeSiteNews by CDL specifies that in many cases, the moment of death is equated with what is called “brain death.” However, CDL clarifies, experts have for a long time criticized reducing a human being only to their brain.
The statement describes a recent case in Germany, where a 29-year-old woman had lost all brain function in the wake of a car crash. Doctors had realized the woman was nine weeks pregnant and kept her alive, even though she had been open to organ donation in the past. 20 weeks later, she suddenly gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
“If she had been a corpse, that would’ve hardly been possible,” CDL comments sarcastically.
Paul Cullen of ÄfdL, the group of pro-life physicians, expects the Spahn proposal to have the most votes, “But the result is not one hundred percent certain.” At the moment, 226 members of parliament have indicated their support for the “objection solution,” while the Baerbock proposal has 194 supporters. There are 709 members of parliament, but usually, only a fraction are there for debates and voting.