Breakpoint: Organ Donation and “Presumed Consent”
Following the lead of the province of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick became the second jurisdiction in Canada to adopt a policy of “presumed consent” for organ and tissue donation. Instead of willingly opting in to be an organ donor, residents 19 years and older, with limited exceptions, will be opted in by default.
While many see this as a solution to the perpetual demand for transplant organs, laws like these treat the ethics of organ donation as a settled matter while treating humans and their bodies as means to other ends. Even more, considering Canada’s policy of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), this step will corrode the already thin ideas of “autonomy” and “consent” while incentivizing a utilitarian view of human nature.
For context, Canada has already experienced a dramatic expansion of MAID toward not only those facing a terminal medical diagnosis but also for those suffering from mental illness deemed “grievous and irremediable” (those who suffer solely from mental illness will not be eligible until 2024). In 2021, assisted deaths rose by 35%, reaching over 10,000, or 3% of all deaths in the country. Opponents of MAID, including virtually every disability rights group in Canada, continued to warn that a so-called “right” to die will inevitably devolve into a duty to die. People are seen, both by themselves and by others, as burdens using precious resources better spent on those with better prospects for a “better” life.