In just a few short weeks, Virginia’s part-time legislature, the General Assembly, shall convene again in Richmond. As such, news of proposed bills have been popping up all across the internet. Today, a fellow constitutionally conservative activist named Sandy brought a potentially troubling piece of legislation to my attention.
HB 154 Presumed consent for organ donation doesn’t sound particularly liberty friendly, does it? According to the summary as introduced, this bill “establishes a system of presumed consent for organ donation in the Commonwealth.”
The full text of the bill is available here. Note this particular line with the italicized text replacing the crossed present law. “
inform the family of each potential donor of the option to donate organs, tissues, or eyes or to decline to donate (a) identify individuals who have registered a refusal to make an anatomical gift and revocation of presumed consent to an anatomical gift and (b) inform the family of individuals who have not filed a refusal to make an anatomical gift and revocation of presumed consent to an anatomical gift about the organ donation process. ”
And perhaps the most distressing part of the bill:
“§ 32.1-291.3:1. Presumption of anatomical gift.
Every resident of Virginia shall be presumed to have made an anatomical gift of his whole body, unless the individual has refused to make an anatomical gift pursuant to § 32.1-291.3:2. Such anatomical gift shall become effective upon the individual’s death without the need to obtain the consent of any survivor.”
This piece of legislation is offered by Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton. Even though typically a fine legislator (with particularly excellent taste in facial hair), every so often he offers a bill (such as increasing state surveillance of the sale of precious metals) that causes advocates of limited government to cringe. Edit: Del. Bell has not sponsored a bill making failure to use seat belts a primary offense. However, as reported by the Daily News Record, “a few years ago Bell said it was likely he would have considered mandatory seat belt laws a government intrusion. But he now would probably support a mandatory seat belt law, citing numerous safety studies on their use.” Mellott, J. (2010, Feb. 8) Collision Course With Safety? Daily News Record.
Although organ donation is a fine option that helps improve or save the lives of a multitude of individuals, it should, like most parts of life, remain a choice. To somehow presuppose that the Virginia government has first dibs on its citizens’ organs unless they specifically state otherwise is, quite frankly, terrifying. Does Virginia somehow own its citizens’ bodies? In this state are they merely on lease to the individual as long as he or she remains alive? I hope the answer to these two questions is a definitive no!
Organ donation ought to remain an opt-in decision rather than allowing the state to simply assume consent and control of our bodies unless stated otherwise. For this reason, it is my hope that HB 154 does not pass.