Individual and family consent to organ and tissue donation: is the current position coherent?

Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (10):587-590 (2005)
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The current position on the deceased’s consent and the family’s consent to organ and tissue donation from the dead is a double veto—each has the power to withhold and override the other’s desire to donate. This paper raises, and to some extent answers, questions about the coherence of the double veto. It can be coherently defended in two ways: if it has the best effects and if the deceased has only negative rights of veto. Whether the double veto has better effects than other policies requires empirical investigation, which is not undertaken here. As for rights, the paper shows that it is entirely possible that individuals have a negative right of veto but no positive right to compel acceptance of their offers. Thus if intensivists and transplant teams turn down the deceased’s offer, they do not thereby violate the deceased’s right. This leaves it open whether non-rights based reasons—such as avoiding bad publicity or distress —require intensivists and transplant teams to turn down or accept the deceased’s offer. This, however, is beyond the scope of this paper. The current position may or may not be wrong, but it is at least coherent



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