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ABSTRACT 

It is often claimed that a legitimate approach to organ donation is a policy of ‘presumed consent’, also known as ‘opt-out’ or ‘deemed consent’, whereby individuals are presumed willing to donate at least some of their organs and tissues post-mortem unless they have explicitly refused permission.  While sharing a default in favour of donation, such policies differ in a number of key respects, such as the role and importance assigned to the family members of prospective donors and their preferences, and the exclusions and safeguards which will often specify demographic groups, purposes, or organs and tissues to which the policy will not apply.

This paper explores the question of whether and, if so, why and how, opt-out systems for post-mortem organ donation should restrict the types of organs and tissues to which opt-out applies.  In other words, which organs and tissues should or should not be within the scope of such policies and for what reasons?

Following a short contextualising introduction, the paper –

  • explores the fundamental rationale for opt-out organ donation policies;
  • discusses how this rationale should inform the precise content of such policies including the question of which organs and tissues are within scope;
  • critiques the process leading to recent changes to organ donation legislation in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and,
  • makes recommendations for policymakers working in this area.

 

Laura O’Donovan is Wellcome Research Associate

Stephen Wilkinson is Professor of Bioethics & Associate Dean for Research (Arts & Social Sciences)

Nicola Williams is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow & Senior Research Associate

All are based in the Department of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion, Lancaster University

 

 

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