In the buzzing hallways of the General Assembly, there arises yet another attempt to bend the constitution to serve what is indeed a noble cause. The proposed Bill No. 96, brought forth by Senator Looney, seeks to establish a rebuttable presumption that any person who loses their life in a motorcycle accident, without donning a helmet, implicitly wishes to donate their organs. I cannot help but question this move, despite its benign and beneficial intentions.
This proposed legislation appears to stride boldly across the lines of liberty and personal autonomy that have formed the bedrock of our society. It seemingly takes for granted that the freedom to choose, or to neglect to choose, equals an affirmative choice. There is a dangerous assumption at play here – that an individual's choice to ride a motorcycle without a helmet is a proxy for their consent to donate their organs in the event of a fatality.
In reality, the lack of a helmet represents many things – a yearning for the wind in one's hair, a rebellious spirit, or perhaps simple forgetfulness – but to interpret it as a tacit agreement to posthumous organ donation is a step too far. We run the risk of conflating two separate acts, with distinct implications for personal freedom and bodily autonomy, into a single bundled act of assumed consent. It may improve public health, as the Statement of Purpose claims, but at what cost to personal liberty?
The precedent set by this proposed law is concerning. If we begin to attribute meaning to one's choices and actions, where does it end? Could one's choice to not wear a seatbelt be construed as a wish to donate their body to science in the event of an untimely death?
The proposed law gives rise to a multitude of questions, not least about how one might rebut the presumption of organ donation. What constitutes adequate evidence to rebut such a presumption? A signed document? A verbal statement to a witness? Or perhaps the existence of a religious belief that precludes organ donation? Would the burden of proof lie with the deceased's family?
This is a laudable attempt to address the shortage of organs for transplant. However, the ends cannot always justify the means. The moral compass guiding us should not lead us to sacrifice essential individual rights at the altar of public health.
While the public health benefits are clear and commendable, it is crucial to tread carefully when it comes to individual liberty. I would argue that we need to search for a more equitable solution. One that upholds the spirit of organ donation as a compassionate, voluntary act and yet respects the rights and liberties of individuals – even those who choose to ride without a helmet.
In sum, the noble goal of increasing organ donation should not overshadow the fundamental rights of the individual. Forcing consent from silence risks undermining the very freedom we are built upon. We must find a way to promote public health that does not presume the intent of individuals based on their choices, particularly choices that might bear no relation to the presumed intent. In a democracy as robust as ours, we owe it to ourselves to find a better way.