23 January 2008

Medical professionals know best

Dr Brown recently came out in support of 'presumed consent' for organ donation. (Not that surprising a development, for those who have always suspected that he is even more of an interventionist than his predecessor, and who have guessed that his professed interest in civil liberties was little more than a marketing ploy.)

The tendency of the il-liberal elite to brush aside the autonomy issues this raises is perhaps no more remarkable than their similar readiness to brush aside autonomy concerns in other areas.

Celia Green points out that discussions of this development, even if they make reference to the liberties point, leave out of account the question of whether the agents operating the proposed system can be relied on to use it only in the most purist way. The issue of motivation, particularly that of professionals such as doctors or teachers, seems to be a bit of a blind spot for many people.

Some additional sound thinking on coercive organ donation is available from Wat Tyler.

Some unsound thinking on the organ issue is available from Spiked. Mick Hume claims the problem of organ shortages has arisen partly because the government "politicised the issue of consent for organ and tissue donation around the so-called ‘body parts’ scandals of a few years ago at Alder Hey and Bristol hospitals." Hume characterises the Alder Hey scandal as an overreaction, and complains that the resulting "wave of unhealthy and morbid concern for the dead [was used] as a stick with which to beat the traditional medical profession into line", which "had traumatic consequences". To excuse one abuse of the consent principle by citing a supposed overreaction to another abuse seems bizarre, though no doubt his story has some appeal for members of the medical profession.