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July 16, 2007

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Tolkein

Why should the state have rights over a dead person's body or body parts, other than for public health issues?

Will this give hospitals rights to cut up the bodies of the dead (especially children) who don't have opt out cards on them?

Would this right extend to private hospitals as well?

If it does, can they then sell on surplus parts? I suppose the NHS could as well.

Will they then want to keep suitable brain dead bodies going as a living donor part bank?

I think the proposal stinks.

jamie

I don't think that you can claim an active right over your own corpse, but it's not clear to me that the government can either. There has to be some kind of consent principle involved in the disposal of your body for the benefit of others and that agency should lie with the individual concerned. After all, if a secondary market in the disposal of body parts arose, and it surely would, who would have the right to the money?

Chris

The proposal is not suggesting that the bodies belong to the state, nor that the alive people do not have the right to specify what will happen (within reason) their bodies when dead; it mearly changes the status quo for those who have not specified their choice, that those organs should be considered donatable.

To me this is a good idea, but it does still have problems - mainly to do with trusting the lack of a match in a computer system to say the person is on the do-not-donate-list. What would be better in my mind, is that at age 18 - people are sent a cheque for £1,000 for agreeing to go on the registry. If they don't want to go on the registry for organ donation, they don't get £1,000. If they ever want to come off the registry, the just have to repay the £1,000 + inflation.

How many 18 year olds would turn down £1,000? How many people would care enough, a few years later, to remove themselves from the registry when £1,000 was less valuable.

Of course - this will prompt calls of "organs for money" or other such nonsense. Far better, to let people die agonising deaths from lack of organs while millions are put into the ground to rot or burnt every year.

Jon

Perhaps it makes more sense to conceive of dead bodies as the property of the surviving relatives, if there are any, or of the state if not.

Shuggy

"Perhaps it makes more sense to conceive of dead bodies as the property of the surviving relatives, if there are any, or of the state if not."

Ah, Chris's extreme hostility to inheritance would rule this out. This leaves both the individual and his or her family with weak to non-existent rights over the corpse. Given this is so, why should the state have to prove that cutting it up is for a really strong reason like organ transplants? I think this is why people respond with such hostility to this idea: the revulsion has to do with the idea that this seems logically to open the door to state-sponsored desecration of the dead. Although you'd no doubt dismiss this primordial sensibility as a nonsensical 'yuck factor', I'd personally prefer to live in a society that is irrational enough to recognize it.

P.S. Fan of Peter Singer, by any chance? Ten bob says you are...

dearieme

You seem to be assuming that the state of being dead and the question of what to do with your organs are independent. They wouldn't be.

Longrider

I'm not entirely sure I go along with your correlation. Leaving one's body to decompose on Hampstead Heath would be a public health risk, so would be an unreasonable desire (if desire is the right word). The decision about donating body parts should rest with no one but the current owner. While on the face of it, this proposal doesn't radically alter that decision, there is the assumption that the reason people do not donate is because they do not care, that they are apathetic as opposed to making a conscious decision.

In the event of my death, my wife is well aware of my wishes - note my wishes. I do not want the state to make the assumption that they can just come along and take what they fancy because I have not specifically told them that they cannot.

Yes, it is my body and I will decide whether people can have bits of it when I am done, not Liam Donaldson. If this comes about, I will most definitely opt out; a reversal of my current wishes.

dearieme

"Do dead people have rights?" The custom of writing wills says that they do.

ad

Do live people have rights over their bodies? Can I sell a kidney, for example?

If I do not have a right to dispose of my organs when I am alive, why should I have it when I am dead?

Shuggy

"If I do not have a right to dispose of my organs when I am alive, why should I have it when I am dead?"

If we insist on using the language of rights, it's maybe more the assumption of *non-rights* on the part of the potential recipient.

No-one has a 'right' to your kidney, even if you want to sell it and no-one has a right to it even when you're dead.

Chris

"No-one has a 'right' to your kidney, even if you want to sell it and no-one has a right to it even when you're dead. "

It seems under current legislation, next of kin to have rights to your organs. They can even override the wishes of the dead person, however explicitly those wishes have been made.

John

I don't think I'd feel comfortable knowing that my organs might be sold by the hospital trust to a pharmaceutical company in order that they could use my organs in research for cosmetics or any other product the main purpose of which might be generating a profit. It's bad enough that my body is exploited for private gain while I'm alive.

tolkein

Chris suggests offering teenagers £1,000 at 18 to 'opt-in' to organ donation. That's a cost of £750m a year as far as the eye can see. To match the 'cost' of a life (assuming a value of £500k) and that all 7,000 lives currently lost would be saved - according to Donaldson - the figure should be about £400. And what about the IT costs of systems to match the would-be donor against opt-out records, and the inevitable mistakes and expensive lawsuits resulting therefrom? A better bet would be regular campaigns urging people to carry donor consent cards. Much cheaper, and sure that only organs from actively (sic) willing donors are taken.

Larry Teabag

The only reasons not to donate your organs are (a) ideology, (b) not getting round to it, or (c) squeamishness. The (a) folk will still have every right to do as they wish with their body, and the more numerous (b) people will have it all taken care for them. The (c) folk meanwhile will have to consider their position rather more carefully - no bad thing really.

Look I'm as nervous as anyone about an overwheening state, but I really fail to see the possibilities for totalitarianism on the back of a few kidneys and livers.

In this case the dreaded 'state' is nothing more than a mechanism for extracting live organs from a corpse and putting them into someone who desperately needs them. This state will only own the organs for a few hours after which they'll be the property of the grateful recipient.

I accept there's some loss of individual liberty here, but it's footling compared to the potential number of lives saved.

Jon

Shuggy -- well, that's Chris's problem, not mine ;-). As for Singer: not especially, though I do share many of his conclusions.

Arieh Lebowitz

'Do dead people have rights?' asks Chris, in connection with the proposal that 'everyone... be treated as organ donors after death unless they explicitly opt out of the scheme'. Chris leans strongly towards saying they don't have rights, and that's my view too.


This is related to other questions, such as whether or not "dead people" exist, in a legal sense or other sense that would in some way accrue rights.


Many rights are culturally / societally determined; it's not clear if "dead people" are the same as "the corpses of formerly alive people," and so on. Often, the wishes of the deceased are not made known whuile they are living, but it is assumed that she/he would have wanted the general precepts of her/his religious faith to be followed, if one was a practicing or otherwise identified believer of a faith that has relevant provisions regarding the disposition of the body of a deceased individual. Sometimes,

As to the issue of 'everyone... be treated as organ donors after death unless they explicitly opt out of the scheme,' of course this issue has been dealt with to some degree decades ago in science fiction, from novellas such as The Quality of Mercy to the the movie Soylent Green and the book on which it was based, Stand on Zanzibar. I am sure an enterprising person could find dozens of other examples.

It seems to me that organ donors are living individuals who legally declare their organs available - upon their legal death - for transplantation. There is no such thing as an "organ donor after death," it seems to me, unless the legal declaration is only learned of between the time a person dies and the last moment that her or his rogans are available for transplantation. Sometimes restrictions are made on the use of organs of a deceased individual of course.

It is often the case that a legal guardian, or direct descendant, or survivor of a couple, parent or child, is expected to have some measure of rights of disposition of the remains of someone who has died. This is different than the rights of a "dead person," of course, but the closest thing that I can think of.

The whole spectacle of prisoners, including dissenters from the state or representatives thereof, having their organs "harvested" after their death is macabre, and should I would say not be considered legitimate. Otherwise, the bodies of prisoners are used in service of teh state, and this may be considered a form of biological fascism, or at any rate, totalitatianism of the worst kind. I am thinking of reports from China.

There are other wrinkles. Most liberal societies these days grant certain rights to mothers who are pregnant - i.e., the disposition of the fetus. This may be limited by the length of the pregnancy, but still it is related. Mothers or in some cases both parents are given the right of disposition of the fetus in cases of miscarriages, as well as the "stillborn."

It is not clear to me who should decide whether or not the bodies of non-opters-out may be treated - once legally dead - as a source of organs. Does this mean that once one has died, her/his body "belongs" to the hospital/medical establishment? To a larger structure that deals with organ transplants? The mroe that I think of it, the more it seems to me that one should have to opt in, or barring this being done, one's legal executors -- as in a will -- should have the the right and responsibility of the disposition of one's organs, as they are among the remaining "assets" of the deceased. I would argue against the State being given this right for fear of abuse of State power "for the greater good."

Enough for now. Time to get out of the office, finally.

>> Arieh

ANL

"Do dead people have rights? This is the question raised by Sir Liam Donaldson's proposal that dead people should be presumed to be organ donors, unless they had opted out. The idea has provoked hostility. "Our bodies belong to us, not the state" says Longrider.But things aren't so simple."

In fact neither Longrider or Liam Donaldson are correct. It's clear that the dead cannot maintain property rights over person and property. The dead cannot own their body after death.

While alive I have total property rights over my body. In anticipatin of my death I may declare that the property rights of my corpse pass to a next of kin, or, possibly, a civil servant. In the case where I make no such transfer of property rights in my will, my corpse becomes unowned property. As with any property of this kind, where there is no previous owner, the first person to "homestead" my corpse becomes its rightful owner and carrys full property rights over it.

Either we leave our bodies to the state (as in the case of a donor for example) or our bodies become the possession of those who first lay physical claim to the corpse.

ANL

"Do dead people have rights? This is the question raised by Sir Liam Donaldson's proposal that dead people should be presumed to be organ donors, unless they had opted out. The idea has provoked hostility. "Our bodies belong to us, not the state" says Longrider.But things aren't so simple."

In fact neither Longrider or Liam Donaldson are correct. It's clear that the dead cannot maintain property rights over person and property. The dead cannot own their body after death.

While alive I have total property rights over my body. In anticipatin of my death I may declare that the property rights of my corpse pass to a next of kin, or, possibly, a civil servant. In the case where I make no such transfer of property rights in my will, my corpse becomes unowned property. As with any property of this kind, where there is no previous owner, the first person to "homestead" my corpse becomes its rightful owner and carrys full property rights over it.

Either we leave our bodies to the state (as in the case of a donor for example) or our bodies become the possession of those who first lay physical claim to the corpse.

Katherine

"If this comes about, I will most definitely opt out; a reversal of my current wishes" - wow, Longrider - you would deprive someone in great need of a potentially life-saving organ out of pique at a government minister? Nice.

Dr.Dawg

My goodness. A discussion whose time has obviously come.

Check out Baglow, J.S. "The Rights of the Corpse," Mortality, 12:3, pp.223-239. Presumed consent re organ donation gave rise to that article as well.

MUKUFI HUSSAINI

How can i study in abroad. I am fully interested to study there.

auto

the rights of the dead do not just end with the dead. it depends on their family who "inherent" the responsibility of their loved ones remains once they have passed on. it is the right to their religious views. I am a Native American woman who has been battling for the rights of the dead for years. our federal government has been digging up Native American remains and buying these remains on the black market to put in museums. they are robbing the corpse for their "artifacts" and selling those as well. How is that ok? and to the Native Americans each tribe has their own spiritual beliefs, to some the removal not only is disrespectful but traps the soul. I know a woman who went to help identify what tribe each artifact belonged to at the Smithsonian and found her grandfathers moccasins that he was buried in 15 years prior. how unsettling is it to know your grandfather was dug up. rights of the dead is a sticky place.

gold buyers uk

u need to give some exams for that...

Glen

You do have an option that most people are not aware of. (Natural Burials)A regular funeral they are going to gut you and take all your organs out, then they are going to drain your blood and pump you up with formaldylhide and tell your kin its to preserve the body for viewing. If they put you in a freezer and didnt do anything else your body would be preserved just the same.Then your body gets placed in a wooden or metal coffin that will eventually breakup in the ground, but it may take years although while your in the coffin the formaldyhide will seep out of your body and into the ground poisoning the water we drink. If your loved ones buried you with watches, or anything other than just your body that also pollutes the earth and makes your grave a target for grave robbers. If your buried naturally you get buried the same way you came into this world, wrapped in a dissolvable wrap and placed into a biodegradeable coffin. Then your buried in a grave where the ground is very acidy, so your body actually disolves into the earth, your nutrients from your body can actually feed a tree, so have your loved ones plant a tree on your grave and give something back to the earth, not to the state.

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