I mentioned in the previous post that religious organizations would be lobbying hard against the proposed New York State legislation that would presume that applicants for driver licenses consent to organ donation unless they affirmatively opt out of the program.
While Agudath Israel of America acknowledges the shortage of organs for transplant and the fact that Jewish religious authorities may permit organ donation in certain cases, it considers “highly presumptuous” – in fact, “simply false – the assumption “that the hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews across New York State would be in favor of allowing their organs to be harvested and transplanted,” in the words of a memorandum sent by Agudath Israel representatives to all the members of the New York State legislature.
Agudath Israel notes further that “similar presumptions about other ethnic and faith groups across the state would be equally false. The plain truth is that many people, for religious or other reasons, would not want their all of their organs automatically harvested. To presume consent where there is no consent is to make a mockery of these people’s rights.”
“Presumed consent,” says Agudath Israel associate general counsel Rabbi Mordechai Biser, “would effectively abandon the entire concept of personal autonomy—the principle underlying all statutory and common law regarding health care proxies, living wills, and the like.”
The principle, he continues, “that individuals have the right to direct what should happen to their own bodies after death would be replaced with the assumption that the state has the right to use a person’s body as it wishes unless the person actively protested such use during his or her lifetime.
“To put it simply: A person’s body should not belong to the state to use as it sees fit simply because he neglected to insist otherwise when alive.”
The Agudath Israel memorandum urges the legislature to “search for other ways of increasing organ donation without trampling on the personal autonomy and religious liberties of countless New Yorkers.”