EDITORIAL – No thanks to so-called ‘opt-out’ organ and tissue donations

(Image: Jesse Orrico,

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

SO-CALLED ‘OPT-OUT’ ORGAN DONATIONS are coming to North America, thanks to Nova Scotia.

The government of that province has introduced legislation for what it calls “presumed” or “deemed” consent.

It means that, instead of actively giving consent for the harvesting of our parts after we leave this mortal coil, it’s assumed they’re available.

There are several rules and “outs” around this policy. Anyone under the age of 19 is exempt, for example. And, the family still has a say, and if you don’t want to donate your organs, you can pro-actively opt out. As opposed to the opt-in of the current system.

Nova Scotia has been talking about this for the past year. Several other countries are already doing it, the theory being that it will increase the availability of usable organs. In practice, that’s not necessarily true.  Sweden, for example, has had presumed-consent legislation since 1996 and continues to have a poor rate of donations.

There can surely be no more invasive or rights-robbing legislation than one that presumes the state has a right to your organs. In case you’re wondering, I opted in many years ago, though I question what value these old bones and organs would be to anyone else at this stage.

But I find it offensive that I would have to make a statement, fill out a form, or whatever, saying I don’t want to give up parts of this aging carcass if that was my wish. It’s quite a lot like those marketing systems in which you have to tell a seller you no longer want the product, instead of the seller having to confirm with you that you do want it.

I don’t care whether or not my family can opt out for me after I’m declared dead. I want to be the one who’s asked, who signs his parts away. Which I do gladly, but it should be nobody’s decision except my own.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (8956 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on EDITORIAL – No thanks to so-called ‘opt-out’ organ and tissue donations

  1. It seems everyone who has commented is also a donor, well add me to the list.

    Some may remember away back when, when some of the cable companies decided to use “negative billing”. They would raise the rates and if you didn’t complain, then you must be all right with it. There was a major uproar. I believe most provinces have now outlawed negative billing.

    I wish more people would become donors but don’t believe robbing the grave is the answer.

  2. Dawne Taylor // January 21, 2021 at 8:43 PM // Reply

    Ah Mel – it would seem to me that all of us can do more to offer life to others – and this would simply be one more step. In fact it’s the ultimate in recycling. Folks can still opt out if they want.

  3. Ya, I dont buy into this concern. The reality is people ‘could’ voluntarily sign up (i did as well), but in the real world, people cant be bothered to initiate the task of making it so. They just dont get to it. If actual transplant numbers do not change between pre and post opt out, then the problem is about service provision to get it out of and into bodies.
    Maybe thats where the attention should be focused and not the availability of parts.

  4. Leanne Knowles // January 21, 2021 at 9:26 AM // Reply

    It’s still your decision. People will get on the bandwagon for something they don’t want to happen more readily than something they do. So many people need organs and oftentimes medical personnel find it difficult to ask a family to consider giving the organs of their loved one.

  5. Beverley Campbell // January 21, 2021 at 9:11 AM // Reply

    You, once dead, are not going to care either way and nor is your family, I would be quite happy to avail myself to whom ever needs valuable parts of me, if any remain valuable.

  6. Mel,
    I also am an organ donor. However, I don’t know about the “state” assuming legal ownership and authority over the body parts of the deceased.
    What about the harvest of kidney from a living donor who is found to be a match but has not given consent?

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