Mandatory organ donation: Welsh Assembly nationalises the human body
Without very much fuss at all, the Welsh Assembly has enacted the ultimate nationalisation: from 2015, they will adopt a system of organ donation in the Principality of presumed consent: that is, unless you carry a donor opt-out card, your eyes, lungs, hearts, liver, pancreas, kidneys, (face?) - any body part deemed useful by the medical profession - can, on death, be appropriated by state organ bandits and harvested for the common good.
Presently, of course, organ donation is voluntary: it is a gift (hence 'donation'). You either opt-in by joining the donor register, or the family of the deceased agrees to the donation. The Welsh Assembly has turned this principle on its head: the default position now is that the deceased was in favour of donation and, as a matter of law, his or her consent is deemed. Organs are no longer to be freely donated but automatically appropriated by state mandate.
This is organ taxation.
The new law will apply to everyone over 18 who has lived in Wales for at least a year.
There are three exemptions: non-Welsh university students; Welsh people who die in another part of the UK; and individuals lacking the mental capacity to make a decision on the matter.
Opposition has come from Christian churches (CofE here) as well as within Muslim and Jewish communities. Critics claim it will cause extra distress for bereaved families, and could put medical staff in a difficult position. If your loved one is on life support, they will be viewed as nothing more than an organ incubator. A heart is of little use once it has stopped beating: these things are best harvested from the living (or 'brain dead').
The views of the Christians and Jews will be set aside, for this is the default position of the state.
But many Muslims believe that the body must be buried whole. There are cultural variations surrounding Islamic funerals with regard to preparation of the body and burial customs, but all practising Muslims believe that death is a departure from this world; not the end of a person's existence.
There is no uniformity of belief in Islam on organ donation. The general rule that 'necessities permit the prohibited' (al-darurat tubih al-mahzurat) is adduced by some to support the practice: organ donation can save or enhance the life of another, and so the benefits outweigh the personal cost. And the Qur'an says: 'Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind' (5:32).
But the alternative view advanced by Islamic scholars is that organ donation is prohibited. 'They consider that organ donation compromises the special honour accorded to man and this cannot be allowed whatever the cost. Scholars, such as the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, allow live donations only.' (Mufti Mohammed Zubair Butt, Muslim Council of Britain).
Muslims may carry donor cards and, in the absence of such a card, the next of kin of a dead person may grant consent. But beliefs vary according to cultural origin: Indo/Pak Muslims generally oppose organ donation; Arab Muslims generally view it favourably. According to Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari. 'A very famous Hadith prevents the usage of human parts. Sayyida Asma bint Abi Bakr (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: Allah's curse is on a woman who wears false hair (of humans) or arranges it for others' (Sahih Muslim, no. 2122).'
The theo-cultural issuers are complex. Ultimately, it comes down to subjective judgments of relative benefit and harm. But in that individual judgment is personal freedom, or a corporate family expression of informed consent. Why, at the moment of profound grief, should a family have to contend with the state over who owns the body of their loved one? And what if they do not agree? Why should a family be torn asunder over who gets grandpa's eyes?
All it will take is for one justifiably aggrieved Muslim family to have their traumatic story emblazoned across the tabloids for the issues of religious liberty to be revisited (or visited for the first time). What's the betting that a fourth group will eventually be granted a blanket exemption from this collectivist corporeal death tax?