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Presumed consent for organ donation unethical

In research settings, consent is something that must be actively provided by an individual

Presumed consent for organ donation unethical

I was disturbed by your editorial last week supporting presumed consent in relation to organ donation.

Step back from the surface topic of tissue donation, and consider the underlying issue of the ethics of presumed consent. Do we really want to set precedents in our society in which we are assumed to consent to highly personal issues to do with the human body?

In research settings, consent is something that must be actively provided by an individual, and consent must be fully informed. A research project plan in which participants would simply say “yes” to something is not a plan which would pass an ethics review. The burden of proof is on the researcher to indicate that a participant is taken through a comprehensive process of being informed — and at the end of this process, the individual has the right to consent to proceeding as a participant — or not. Presumed consent bypasses this entire process, and sets a dangerous precedent.

There are plenty of actions that could be taken which may encourage more people to feel that organ donation is right for them: better inform the public; more fully educate via ads/brochures/social media posts; make more prominent the “do you consent?” questions regarding organ donation at the time of licence renewal. But at all costs, protect the fundamental value that providing one’s consent must be an act — and in no domain is this more important than in relation to decisions regarding our bodies.

Zoe Dalton

Duncan

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