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Opt In? Opt Out? “Can We Move On?”

By Chua Ee Teng, TIME

Published: 19 Mar 2019 - 10:14 PM

Tensions were running high in the first SOCHUM council session today as delegates went back and forth between the issue of implementing an opt-in or opt-out system in countries to tackle the issue of the lack of organ donations.

The delegates of France, Brazil, Netherlands, and Bolivia were more prominent in campaigning for the implementation of an opt-out system, with France repeatedly reiterating that with the opt-out system, citizens would be able to “still help someone” after they are dead and that they would still “have the right to opt out if they want to”, and that the opt-out system “is an empowerment policy”.

Most of the other countries, however, were more supportive of an opt-in system, with the delegate of America, China, Libya, Croatia, and the United Mexican States being more prominent supporters amongst the many delegates on the opt-in system’s side. The delegate of Croatia and America also acknowledged the glaring faults of the opt-out system, which seemed to rob citizens of their right to make their own decision as to whether they are going to donate their organs after they die. The delegate of Croatia stated that the opt-out system “is taking advantage of citizens”, with the delegate of America backing Croatia by bringing up the fact that the opt-out system “justifies that the organs never belonged” to citizens as they would be forced to donate their organs “from the moment they are born”.

The discussion became increasingly heated as France began to aggressively fight for the opt-out system by making claims like “[the] organs of deceased have no use for [the deceased] anymore!” and that once people die, their organs “would rot” or “be eaten by insects”, thus their organs would go to waste, but the opt-out system would “improve the situation” as others would be able to benefit from the organs of the deceased.

In my personal opinion, the opt-out system would indeed help resolve the issue of the huge disparity between the supply and demand of organs as it would mean that more people would be organ donors automatically, but this system would be extremely unfair for those that do not have the ability or chance to opt out as they would essentially be forced to donate their organs even though they might not have wanted to donate.

In response to this, the delegate of America was amenable to a compromise and suggested a solution whereby citizens’ status would be opted out, but there would be multiple chances that are more accessible for citizens to decide to opt in and confirm that they would like to donate their organs after death.

Personally, this compromise seemed like a promising solution to this topic as it provides citizens with multiple opportunities to choose to opt in and become an organ donor, while still giving citizens the freedom to make their own decisions.

However, the delegate of France still seemed to be against this compromise. This caused the debate to continue as with France still firmly against a compromise, delegates had to push on to see how else they could achieve a solution that satisfied everyone, including France.

As the council continued the debate over this topic without reaching a solution by the end of the first council session, the council simply moved on to the topic of border security to combat organ trafficking. Similarly, no solution was reached in the second council session as delegates were similarly unable to reach a satisfying solution on whether the creation of an international police task force would help the situation.

Fortunately, in the third council session, SOCHUM members finally agreed and decided on a resolution on the issue of illegal organ trade, where it seemed like America’s proposed solution for the debate on the topic of the opt-in and opt-out donation system was eventually accepted and included in the resolution. The resolution was eventually passed with 42 countries for the resolution and only 1 country against the resolution.

Divided viewpoints and stances caused the debate to be dragged on for longer than needed, causing the SOCHUM to be unable to reach a solution efficiently.

Divided viewpoints and stances caused the debate to be dragged on for longer than needed, causing the SOCHUM to be unable to reach a solution efficiently.