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Friday, April 30, 2010

Body Organ Harvesting in the Vampire State

In New York, driving may really cost you an arm and a leg.
New York State moved closer to becoming the Vampire State this past week when Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-The Island) sponsored a bill mandating that drivers in New York become organ and tissue donors automatically once they get a driver's license.  Brodsky's bill would reverse the current system which allows for drivers to check a box to volunteer to donate organs; his bill would automatically enroll all drivers regardless of their health or religious or sentimental objections, and non-participation must be requested by checking a box to "opt out." 
The bill provides -- in capital letters -- that "IF THE APPLICANT DOES NOT DECLINE TO BE REGISTERED IN THE NEW YORK STATE ORGAN AND TISSUE DONOR REGISTRY THEY WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY ENROLLED."  (Click here to read the actual bill.)  This means that if you do not "opt out," because you don't know or for whatever reason, the state can come in and harvest your body after you die to salvage any and all "useful" organs.
There are numerous problems here.   First, the sanctity of the human body becomes subject to bureaucratic "mistakes."  It is easy to imagine records of the check-off being "lost" so as to facilitate a desired organ harvesting.  Secondly, there is a thriving black market for body organs.   Just a few years ago a major criminal case broke in the New York / New Jersey region involving funeral home workers desecrating the deceased to harvest and sell human tissue; even in the legendary Bid Rig corruption investigation in New Jersey, at least one rabbi was arrested in connection with the sale of a human kidney.  There is no reason to believe that greed will not induce future desecrations, particularly when the deceased pass alone or with no friends and family capable of defending their rights.  Those who have been vulnerable while alive and relatively healthy will be especially susceptible to abuse when in poor health or on death's door.   Remember, when the ends justify the means, little things like personal sensitivities and family wishes will be ignored in order to serve some high-falutin' purpose -- and someone's private profit. 
But the third and most serious potential danger lies in the temptation to withhold medical care from the living in order to hasten their death (or cause it to happen in the first place while arranging for a plausible "cover" or explanation for the death) and create the opportunity to salvage organs.  Again, we must not make the mistake of thinking about the benevolent purposes, about the people who will be helped; for policy reasons, we must also anticipate the nefarious purposes and the dark side of human nature, those elements in our society which are immoral or entirely atavistic.   There are people who would today kill others to salvage organs; this bill will facilitate their actions tomorrow, cloaked in the apparent legitimacy of a doctor's white coat.  
Today, all sorts of rationalizations are offered to justify harming one person for the private benefit (monetary or physical) of another.   Two generations of Americans have grown up being taught that in utero infanticide via abortion is permissible "in order to spare the baby the suffering" of being born to an unfit, impoverished, immature or overwhelmed mother.  We have outright murder dressed up as euthanasia and lionized in a recent HBO movie about Dr. Jack Kevorkian.  If Brodsky's bill passes, what will prevent the unscrupulous from killing others for their organs?  Cover-ups in violent crimes are attempted all the time; why encourage this cottage industry within our hospitals and medical schools?
"New York -- it's a terrible place to die."
-- Former United States Ambassador to France Evan Galbraith, quoted on the campaign stump while running for the Republican nomination for New York Governor in 1994.
The Crime, Politics and Policy blog hereby asks all readers to contact Assemblyman Brodsky -- and all other New York State legislators -- and voice their strong legal and moral opposition to this bill.
Eric Dixon is an attorney in New York who engages in strategic analysis of a diverse mix of legislative, economic and other policy matters, and handles certain civil rights and civil liberties matters.  Mr. Dixon may be reached at and by phone at 917-696-2442.

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