Advocates for the policy change cite growing transplantation waiting lists, currently approaching 8,000 people, as justification for the introduction of the system of presumed consent. They also argue that the present "opt-in" system suffers from the problem of doctors having to ask near relatives' permission to remove organs at a time when they are likely to be suffering from distress and worry.
Sensible opponents of the policy of a system of presumed consent argue that it represents an unjustifiable intrusion of the state into the personal sphere. They argue that the state has no moral authority to presume consent and that it is the right of people to choose before death by "opting in" as is currently the case in Britain with the donor card system.
But the Islamists - not Muslims, who have every right to opt-out for religious reasons and their inherent ability as British citizens to practise free will (Islam has prevented the violation of a dead person and does not view the deceased as of lesser importance than the living or as a source of spare body parts) - have turned the issue into a political football and turned what could have been a measured, sensible opposition to the policy into a politicized, mindless one.
Hizb ut Tahrir Britain - who’d make a political statement out of a football result if they got the chance - wrote a piece, helpfully entitled “issues explained” for their followers. In it they told followers that opting in was impossible by Islam and that they should not be put by any government into a position where they had to opt out.
HT explained away the Government’s initiative as if it was a personally motivated measure by Gordon Brown “perhaps affected by his own son's condition of cystic fibrosis, which can be treated by lung transplantation surgery”.
HT then went on to point out that “often it is a most politically powerful lobby that can sway the parliamentary process in favour of its opinion and not necessarily wider public opinion as we witnessed in the build up to the Iraq war”. Iraq war, HT? What’s the Iraq war got to do with organ donation?
Then bizarrely, their piece finishes, “By placing sovereignty with the Shariah and not human beings, neither individual political leaders, nor public opinion, nor powerful lobbying groups or the state itself can change the inviolate principles that guarantee the preservation of our human dignity. Under the sublime values of Islam, the Khilafah (Caliphate) will seek to treat the incidence of end-stage organ failure through vigorous pursuit of the development of regenerative medical therapy, which will lead to the repair of damaged organs.” Sublime values? Regenerative therapy? What scientists are there who have ever come out of an Islamist world (as opposed to a relaxed Caliphate, such as the Abbassid Caliphate, which did not need to seek a return to the days of the Prophet to rediscover its sense? None.
As a doctor who works in a field where a presumed consent policy would be very helpful to many patients, I would ask all who can to push their MPs into accepting the new changes. I am personally disgusted by the likes of Hizb ut Tahrir who feel they have to turn everything - even an issue like this, which has more value than the lot of them put together - into a political football. How fortunate it is that they are fizzling out in Britain - their middle class failures of men, who lead them, realizing that it just ain’t going to work out as they hoped.
If preservation of corpses is such a major issue for the Islamists, maybe they should look again at their heroes - their “martyrs” - and start treating their and others’ bodies with the respect and care they deserve.
Dr Richard Evans is a British medical consultant.