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To Opt In or Opt Out, That Is the Question

By Chloe Neo , The Wall Street Journal

Published: 19 Mar 2019 - 09:46 PM

Illegal organ trade – one of the most taboo problems ever to arise. The cases of illegal organ trade has been increasing gradually as the demand for human organs increases. As countries struggle to meet the demand of organs, criminals continue to illegally exploit organs from innocent people for cheap. This triggered a raging debate on legal organ donation, raising the tensions in the SOCHUM council today as delegates went back and forth on the opt-in or opt-out system to be implemented in their countries in order to counter the increasingly infamous issue of the lack of organ donors in order to meet the ever growing demand of organ donations.

Countries like America, Belarus, Mexico, Moldova and the United Kingdom were strongly for the Opt-In system where citizens were strongly encouraged to put themselves on a list where they can donate their organs once they're deceased, also known as the Organ Donor Registration System. These countries had stated that opting in would be a better choice for citizens as it would be more respectful to their human rights and does not take advantage of any groups in society. As mentioned by the Kenya delegation, “We are giving people free will to opt in, unlike the mandatory, government-imposed law that every citizens' organs are to be donated when they pass away”. The system of opting in also ensures that every citizen that signs up to donate their organs are willing, unlike the more forceful system of opting out, where citizens are automatically signed up for organ donations unless they decide to opt out. The delegations mentioned above also stated that there are more disadvantages to opting out that opting in, some of which would be that the opt-out system is taking advantage of citizens residing in less economically developed countries who are unaware of the health implementations and how it would be infringing their own human rights to be robbed of their organs even after death, violating the law of human rights, contradicting SOCHUM's aim to combat the abuse of human rights. Furthermore, if one fails to opt out of the organ donation system after he is deceased, his/her family may not have the ability to opt them out. Ways to spread awareness of the choice of opting in were also discussed in the conference, one of which was to educate the public on the importance of organ donation.

On the other hand, countries like France, Brazil and Cuba voiced out their thoughts on the decision of making it mandatory for citizens to donate their organs after they pass away unless they wish to opt out for valid reasons such as religious reasons. However, if such reasons are accepted, the disadvantage is that people might come up with new reasons just to be eligible to opt out of donating their organs. The system of opting out has to make sure that all citizens know that they signed up to donate their organs after they pass away. One suggestion was to increase awareness via education, by educating the citizens on the importance of organ donation, those countries above hoped that the citizens would be more understanding on how donating their organs would contribute to society.

It was a hard battle fought by delegations on both sides. Each delegate a strong believer of their choice. No one wanted to back down as they strived to achieve the best system for their country. In the end, after hours of heated debate, the council reached a consensus to recommend countries to implement the opt-in system. However, delegates have also understood that the opt-in option may not be feasible in all countries and thus allows countries to implement the option of opting out. Furthermore, those countries that have decided to opt out will be placed under the supervision of the council.

The debate in SOCHUM was a success

The debate in SOCHUM was a success