Potential donors shouldn’t get hung up on what happens to their body after they die

Organ donations in Ontario have increased by 30 per cent in the last year, setting a record year for transplants with over three million Ontarians registered as organ donors. Still, it’s not enough.

Over 1,000 Ontarians continue to wait for a transplant, and Canada has much lower rates of organ donations than other countries. As such, it’s time for the provincial government to do more to encourage organ donations, and they should start by introducing an official opt-out policy.

In an opt-out policy, something that’s been recently adopted in France, you are automatically placed on the organ donor list. You can be removed from the list only if you explicitly say so. This is the opposite of what happens in Ontario, where you have to explicitly say that you want your organs to be donated when you die.

The most obvious argument against an opt-out policy is that the government shouldn’t presume consent. The issue with that argument, though, is it would be quite hard for a dead person to consent to anything.

When you are alive, your body is yours. But what happens when you die? You’re gone. Your body can’t be yours because you don’t exist. There is a way to effectively extend your life beyond your death with a last will and a testament, where you effectively get to make choices after your death. But if you don’t make that clear statement of choice, well, then you really are dead, and your body is just a body like any other.

Consider this: if you buy a book, the book is yours until you give it to somebody. If you leave it lying about without giving it to anyone then it’s a gift to nobody, and basically public property. This means that the state can step in, regulate it, and put it towards the public good.

So why shouldn’t the government use an inanimate object that belongs to nobody to offer someone a concrete chance at extending their life? How would using organs from a human body be any different than using organs from the body of any other animal? Answer: it isn’t.

All that is to say that once you’re dead, you’re dead. A corpse can’t exactly make choices or have freedom, and so the argument against presumed consent fails.

On top of that, there is evidence to show that an opt-out policy works. In Wales, where that policy was adopted in 2015, there has been a marked rise in organ donors, and lives have been saved. The lives of living, breathing people—and that’s worth a lot.

No longer should we talk of ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Instead, let’s talk of blood to blood, life to life. Opt-out is the way for Ontario.