A plan that is being pushed now in the state of Colorado by two Democratic lawmakers would allow the government to assume that its residents want to donate their organs or tissue.

“The bill changes the organ donation program so that a person is presumed to have consented to organ and tissue donations at the time the person applies for or renews a driver’s license or identification card unless the person initials a statement that states that the person does not want to be considered as a possible organ and tissue donor,” states the summary of the bill posted online by the state’s 68th General Assembly.

Carrying the plan in the state House is Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat from Denver, and in the Senate Sen. Lucia Guzman, also a Denver Democrat.

It calls for state administrators to present to applicants the statement:

You are automatically deemed to have consented to being an organ and tissue donor and this designation will appear on your driver’s license or identification card. If you do not want to be considered an organ and tissue donor, you must elect to not be included on the organ donor registry by inserting your initials on the line below.

The proposed statute changes, which apparently would be a first if adopted, provide that “the consent is sufficient to satisfy all requirements necessary to evidence the applicant’s consent to anatomical donation of the applicant’s organs and tissue.”

Neither Pabon nor Guzman responded to multiple WND requests for comment on the issue, but according to a report from KMGH-Television, Pabon described it as a way to make recruiting donors easier.

But the broadcast by KMGH reporter Dayle Cedars said there already is some opposition, including that from Donor Alliance, a tissue recovery agency whose CEO, Sue Dunn, said there are some complications that perhaps should be addressed.

She told the station the state already has one of the highest opt-in rates in the nation.

“I think it is really important that we get the religious, the ethical, the legal – our diverse communities to weigh in and have a broad discussion,” she said.

She worries it actually could hurt donations because of the way “it gets presented at the driver’s license office.”

KMGH reported similar plans already have failed in Delaware, Illinois and New York because of the coercive nature of the statement.

Dr. Jackie Glover, of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities that is linked to the University of Colorado, had similar concerns.

“It seems coercive. It is not voluntary if you don’t ask me,” Glover told KMGH.

Arthur Caplan, who is with the University of Pennsylvania’s bioethics center, warned that the words “presumed consent” alarm people.

He told the station that something like “default to donation” would be better.

“When you use the word ‘presumed’ it sounds like you’re just going to take the organ, and that doesn’t sound good,” Caplan told the station.

Commentator Wesley J. Smith at the First Things blog was alarmed.

“When [organ donation] was being pitched to a wary public, we were solemnly assured that only those who specifically agreed to donate their organs ahead of time, or with consent from family after death, would be donors. Now, we see advocacy to do away with specific consent – in other words to the concept of ‘donation’ – and replace it with organ conscription, in which the state could take your organs unless you specifically opted out beforehand…”

The British Medical Journal earlier studied the issue and said, “systems of opting out do not ensure higher rates of donation than opting-in systems.”

“People may be more likely to donate when they feel they retain control of that decision rather than the law dictating that donation should take place. Brazil had to withdraw its system of presumed consent because it aggravated mistrust in the health-care system,” the report said.

“We must not forget that many countries today are multicultural societies, where diverse groups view organ donation differently. Trust in the health-care system is not universal. Presumed consent could alienate even further those groups that lack this trust, and feed negative attitudes towards organ donation,” the report said.

For example, the report said, “Singapore’s law on presumed consent makes exemptions for Muslims on religious grounds.”


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