Real life

My organ donation opt-out hell

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

Opting out of organ donation was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while. I don’t mean the decision was hard. There’s no way I’m donating my body parts to the state. The hard bit was completing the online form and getting the NHS to accept my decision.

If you didn’t notice, the law changed on 20 May so that everyone over 18 must fill out a form if they do NOT wish to be carved up after death. If you don’t submit this form, your organs automatically become the property of the state and, once they’ve taken the bits they need, your relatives get to bury what’s left.

Many will say how callous I am to point this out as being in some way wrong and thus deny a child, potentially, the chance of life from a transplant.

After all, I won’t know anything about it. This rationalism is being deployed even by religious leaders, including the Roman Catholics who kind of used to represent me a bit, but increasingly don’t at all, and who are twisting about on the head of a pin to make legalised body-snatching morally valid.

Of course I want to save a child’s life, and not just someone who has worn out their organs drinking, smoking and overeating. And of course I won’t care because I’ll be dead. But my opinion is not what interests me. I am the sort of believer who wants to respect God’s opinion on the matter. Oh pur-lease, the rationalists gasp.

Listen, the last time I checked, I was still allowed to believe in God and have a personal relationship with Him. Even though many religious leaders no longer demonstrably believe in the afterlife, or God from what I can make out, I intend to fight very hard against the presumption that I am to be processed in an atheist way, having my parts stripped as if they were mechanical components.


Death. The passing-over process. I am interested in it. I find the manner of our leaving this earth to be as important as the miracle of our coming into it.

I have a friend whose son was on a life support machine, about to be switched off, and they agreed to donate his organs. He was then left switched on for days after that to keep his organs fresh until they were ready to harvest them.

This is the stuff of horror movies, not for those who worship at the altar of science, but for those who believe a person has a soul.

That boy was in there somewhere. He had not passed over because they wouldn’t let him. I’m not sure we understand the nature of the journey, and the trouble it might cause a soul, or psyche, or whatever you want to call it, to be treated in this way. Either prolonging life when all hope is gone or hurrying death along when there might still be the faintest flicker is against what I believe.

Where does the soul reside? Relatives of deceased donors often say how glad they are that their loved one’s essence lives on in someone else. But that would only be proof to me that we shouldn’t do it.

Nor am I persuaded by the argument that one body could give life to nine people: by that logic we might one day be advocating killing one terminally sick person to save nine others.

Also, I’m a small state person. Having paid tax to provide healthcare for all, I think it’s a cheek the NHS wants my very flesh and blood. As someone who hates red tape, the idea of the state owning me on my deathbed is monstrous on a civil liberties basis. They tax and regulate every aspect of your existence, and now they even own your corpse.

So I set about inputting my name and address on the NHS organ donor site, which was all it said was required for the opt-out. But each time I clicked submit, red ‘invalid’ warnings came up.

I typed and retyped my name it until I realised the software didn’t like that I was typing a space after Melissa. Then it claimed my postcode was invalid. I tried everything and when there was nothing else to try I inserted a space into the middle — and it accepted that. After 20 minutes, I got the form submitted. But then a message popped up telling me I would need to tell my family.

Presumably, whichever relative has power of attorney when I die will be asked again. And if I don’t tell them to stand firm, they may sign me over.

I told the builder boyfriend, who also opted out, and we agreed to be guardians of each other’s body parts. And they say romance is dead.

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