Officials running a federal program that is considering redefining death are going to be seeking further public comment after members of the Christian Medical Association raised alarms about several problems, including what they believe would be an open door to pressure families to donate organs before their loved one has died.
The proposal could move the federal government closer into alignment with what has been proposed by longtime Barack Obama adviser Cass Sunstein.
Obama's "regulatory czar" was revealed in 2009 to have pushed strongly for the removal of organs from those who did not give their consent to becoming an organ donor.
In his book, "Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness," Sunstein and co-author Richard Thaler presented the possibility of the "routine removal" of organs because "the state owns the rights to body parts of people who are dead or in certain hopeless conditions, and it can remove their organs without asking anyone's permission."
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"Though it may sound grotesque, routine removal is not impossible to defend," he wrote. "In theory, it would save lives, and it would do so without intruding on anyone who has any prospect for life."
He also has argued for presumed consent, the idea that anyone who has not left specific orders against organ donation is a voluntary contributor to the program, a plan that has been proposed in some state legislatures as recently as the last few years.
A spokeswoman for the the operators of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network told WND that a new round of public comments will be heard regarding the issue that the CMA said would allow those caring for critically ill patients to start considering them for their potential to donate organs while they remain alive.
"Gone [would be] the crucial wall separating patient care from donation solicitations," said a letter this week from the chief of the CMA. "Such undue influence on difficult decisions at a heart-wrenching time is ethically unacceptable."
The letter was from Dr. David Stevens, the CEO of the Christian Medical Association, to John Lake, the president of the OPTN, which is run under contract by a company called UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing.
At issue are proposed changes to various definitions and standards that the nationwide organ-donation coordination program uses.