The Government will introduce “presumed consent” for organ donation in England, Theresa May announced at the Tory conference last week. May said the government was “shifting the balance … in favour of organ donation”, meaning that authorities will automatically assume people are organ donors unless they have specifically said otherwise. The Conservatives said: “Last year 500 people died waiting for a transplant because a suitable organ was not available.”
What the media said
The Guardian reported an enthusiastic response from medical professionals. Roberto Cacciola, a kidney transplant specialist, told the paper: “As a transplant surgeon I’m delighted with and excited by this initiative.” Fiona Loud, policy director at Kidney Care UK, said it was “fantastic news for the thousands of people currently waiting for a kidney transplant”.
But the Daily Mail’s Tom Utley said that May’s proposal was “very wrong”. True, most traditions – including Catholicism, the faith of Utley’s mother – recognise organ donation as “praiseworthy”. But as Catholic teaching also insists, the donor must consent. “By what twisted interpretation of the English language,” Utley asked, “can failing to tick an opt-out box on an NHS form be construed as ‘informed consent’?”
What Catholics said
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference said: “Organ transplantation when freely given is an intrinsic good. Explicit consent from the donor or the family of the donor is essential as a matter of respect for the person who has died. Without that consent, it shows a lack of respect for the person who has died for their body to be treated as a commodity.” The bishops quoted John Paul II as saying that “The human ‘authenticity’ of such a decisive gesture requires that individuals be properly informed.”
At catholicherald.co.uk, Peter D Williams said the proposal would undermine “the foundations of a free society”, by changing the relationship between the individual and the state, and could lead to “serious abuse on a large scale both in current and possible future organ harvesting”.
✣Pope Francis enters gender debate
Pope Francis has said it is “not right” “to radically eliminate any difference between the sexes, and, as a result, the covenant between man and woman”. Speaking at the Pontifical Academy for Life’s general assembly, the Pope criticised the use of technology when it became “obsessively centred on the sovereignty of man”.
Why was it under-reported?
The mainstream media generally gives more coverage to papal statements which seem to find common ground with secular liberalism. And not only was the Pope’s argument counter-cultural, it was also subtle: he mounted, not for the first time, a critique of “technocratic materialism” – the attempt to remake the world
according to man’s untrammelled desires, rather than accepting it as a gift of God to be cherished. We must, he said, “ensure that our lives together can be lived in the light of God’s love for every creature”.
What will happen next?
The Pontifical Academy for Life is likely to take its cue from the Pope, who has identified a new era in human development: one in which technological progress is leading us to look at age-old questions with new eyes. But despite the dangers of biotechnology and materialism, Francis urged the academy not to get bogged down in “nostalgia and lament”, but to reach out to people searching for meaning. The academy is likely to be focused on dialogue with non-Catholics, but what form this will take is not yet clear.
✣The week ahead
Pope Francis will join a conference on migration at the headquarters of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation on Monday. In a message to conference participants in July he said the Holy See wanted to help the international community “promote not mere progress or development goals in theory, but rather the actual elimination of hunger and malnutrition”.
Sister Annie Demerjian from Aleppo will speak alongside Church leaders from Iraq, Nigeria and Lebanon at an Aid to the Church in Need event in Westminster Hall at noon tomorrow (Saturday). A Mass at the cathedral starts at 10am.
Three children martyred in Mexico in the 16th century are to be canonised at the Vatican on Sunday. One, Blessed Cristobal, was mudered by his father for pouring away a stash of alcohol. Blesseds Antonio and Juan were killed after smashing pagan idols. The three, among Mexico’s first evangelisers, died in 1527 and 1529, just before Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared.