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Times of India
07 Mar 07
Last week, doctors in a Singapore hospital turned off the life support of a patient — in spite of his family’s protests — so that his organs could be used for transplants.
This was done under an Act, which allows hospitals to remove kidneys, liver, heart and corneas of all non-Muslim citizens when they die unless they have given their objections in writing.
The ramifications of such a legislation, which is there in some other countries too, is horrifying. This amounts to the ultimate invasion of privacy.
It means that even in death a person’s body has no sanctity — the state can defile it as it pleases. The modern state, as philosophers such as Foucault have so tellingly described, tracks every little detail of an individual’s life.
Laws such as the one in Singapore will ensure that even death won’t free a person from the state’s clutches.
The other objectionable aspect of compulsory donation of organs is the disregard for free choice. It must be left to an individual whether he wants to donate his organs after death.
This must be a voluntary decision and cannot be imposed by the state. Ironically, in the Singapore incident the patient’s family had no objection to his organs being used for transplants, but wanted doctors to wait one more day
before turning off the life support system.
But this plea was disregarded by the government in its unseemly haste to procure healthy organs. The government offer to subsidise hospital fees for five years for the patient’s parents in no way compensated them for their trauma and loss.
It is well known that there is a shortage of organs for transplants, which has led to a thriving black market to meet the demands of patients.
But that is no reason to make organ donation compulsory. To encourage organ donation, government can run awareness campaigns and offer various incentives; the state cannot, however, force it on an individual.