The Instigator
Pro (for)
1 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Organ donation should be 'opt out' as opposed to 'opt in'

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/11/2013 Category: Health
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,441 times Debate No: 35505
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




The percentage of the British population who have joined the organ donor register is 31%. A much larger percentage of the population would donate their organs if directly asked just have not made the effort to sign the register. The number of organs required per year far exceeds the number available and this would go some way to being solved by a system of 'opt out' rather than 'opt in.'


Hi Chloe_Louise, I would like to say thank you for this debate, I hope it is a fun one. While I personally agree with you in principle I will be playing a bit of devils advocate here.

While I agree that the opt in by default would help the waiting lists and go a long way to solving things, in the UK as I am from and as has been mentioned by Pro, we are a country that prides itself in religious tolerance. I would first like to make an appeal to religion.

If we had an opt in by default we would, by default be opening up organ donation where it might infringe on the persons beliefs and religions. As this person has no way of now saying no once passed away, and we have no way to know that he or she did not convert their beliefs just 5 seconds before any such tragic thing may happen, we cannot simply assume that their beliefs and religious practices accept organ donation by default.

I feel that the only way we can avoid this is to have people state their preference before death, and if our waiting lists are suffering then perhaps efforts should be focused away from changing the legal default and put into raising awareness and opt in sign-ups. This would stop the possibility of anyone doing something which may condemn the person to hell by their beliefs from the practices of someone who has not even asked permission to any higher level than assumption that its ok.

As a second point, paperwork can be mixed up, and people could be opted in by mistake, when they did not want to be.

I look forward to Pros reply, thank you again :)
Debate Round No. 1


I'm glad you like the debate, it is something I feel personally passionate about!

Religion is the main issue barring the introduction of opt-out organ donation. Although we are a tolerant society towards religion, particularly Christianity, British society is no longer as Christian as it once was. In 2001, 72% of the population identified as Christian, in 2011, it had fallen to 59%. This decreased despite the increase in the size of the population as a whole. The number of people who identified as Atheist or Agnostic increased. In the next few years, less than half the population will identify as Christian. Other religions in society are a small minority and, although they must be tolerated and respected, they are not to be the main consideration in any laws or legislation.

Christianity is a religion which accepts and sees organ donation as an act of love. Atheists and Agnostics, of course, have no fundamental issue with the donation of organs. If a large majority of the population are in favour of organ donation, then why not introduce an opt-out policy, a policy which would favour the bulk of the population.

Personally, I know many people who are just too lazy to join the organ donor register. They 'will do it one day' or 'don't have the time'. Increasing awareness of organ donation and the ability to become a donor will not change this. They will still have an attitude of being unwilling to put in the minimal effort required. If they were automatically placed on the register, however, they would not have the conviction to remove themselves, because they are not fundamentally opposed to it. The small minority of the population who do feel passionately enough, be it for religious or other reasons, will make the effort to change their situation and opt out of the programme.

I am unaware of minority religions specific beliefs surrounding organ donation but from what I know, the majority of the population would accept an organ if they required one. A much, much smaller percentage are willing to give. This is not right and not fair on those who are both willing to give and receive. Considering that we are unable to make a law only allowing organ donors to receive organ transplants, an opt-out policy would make the percentage difference between willing to receive and willing to give much smaller.

The mixing of paperwork is a potential issue with anything but there is still the chance with the opt-in system that someone may be opted in by accident, when they did not actually want to be.

I look forward to the reply :)


I thank Pro for the reply.

Religious Percentage

As an athiest myself I am aware of the rising numbers and the fall in christianity, however we do not legislate for the percentage. Things like freedom of speech etc. are in place because it is unpopular speech by the minority that would be suppressed. Laws should not be made for the majority, they should be madeto protect people.

Even if only 1 person was of a religion that did not agree to organ donation, the law should be there to protect that person from unwanted invasion of their body. After all, their body is their own property, is it not?

Religion and Prio Consent

What we are talking about here is doing away with prior consent and assuming we have it unless specifically stated that we do not. I would like to point out that some groups are in great disfavour of organ donation, such and Gypsies and Shinto. To assume that these groups give permission unless they don't would be an insult to their own beliefs and opinions. Thats like saying "we'll put everyone down as wanting cremated unless we get specific written notice that they want a burial." That fact alone alienates the people who do not with to donate.

If they want to donate, thats great, but it is a privilage to be given permission from someone to use their body to help anothers life and we shouldn't take that for granted.

Other groups like Muslims, for example, require that specific permission be given from the donor, and to assume an opt-in would be as good as ignoring that part of the Muslim religion. The way the system works just now means we do not step on the toes of religions or alienate people by goign ahead and cutting folk open because they haven't said not to. If we go ahead and change that, we might change the opinion of any muslims currently thinking of making their own choice to opt in. The Jewish community needs specific permission from a Rabbii, not just the donor, for another example.

Determining The Religion

Say we change things to an op-out system, we would have to take on board each religions requirements surrounding donation. We currently do not have a register of everyone's religion, and to do so we be a massive undertaking, as well facing many of its own problems. So how do we go about determining the persons religion? What if they converted today, family and friends were not made aware, and we go ahead and say "no, he was not religios, donation is fine". We would be going against that peprson religios beliefs, even if he only converted to them today. In his eyes, you may be condemming him to hell, and thats a pretty big issue that you would need to overcome.

The only way you could have an opt-out system that does not encrouch heavily on religion is if you have a way to determine whether the person is of a religion, and if so what one. Otherwise each religions specific requirements and views surrounding organ donation is completely ignored.

Saved Life, Medical School

It has been mentioned in the past that there is no guarentee that organs for donation will go specifically to donation. What if some of them go as cadavers to a medical school, students do need to be tuaght dont they? If we have no system for asking what types of donation they are opted in to, how do we stop someone ending up on a college table when their beliefs would only have them donating for serios medical emergencies.

Further to that, Muslims can only donate after death if it will save the others life, other than that you are forbidden to cut up the perfect human body. Only when saving a life is it justified to them. Another reason to why you would have to determine fully the religion of each person, as well as matching up the potential

Mixing paperwork

While mixing paperwork is going to be true on either side, it poses a much bigger risk when it is an opt-out system. With the current system, they might mix up your will to opt-in, in which case your body remains the way it was.

If they mix it up on an opt-out system though, your bosy might be cut open and organs removed against your beliefs, religions and ideology. This would be a much bigger issue.

Debate Round No. 2


Thank-you for the reply,

The majority
You say that we do not legislate for the majority when surely, in essence, that is exactly what a democracy does and what the purpose of democracy is. The most popular political party are voted in because the greatest proportion of the population support them; vetoes are decided because the greatest percentage of the population support it. As a democratic society, we, in essence, make most laws based on majority opinion. If the majority of the population support organ donation and would not oppose an 'opt-out' system and we are making legislation which does protect minority groups (see Alternative Options below), then this would be the logical decision.

Honouring of personal opinions
You also say that assuming they give permission unless they say otherwise is an insult to their beliefs and opinions. If this is the case, then surely assuming automatically that someone does NOT want to donate their organs is equally insulting to their beliefs and opinions. If organ donation is something I, as an individual, feel passionately is something I wish to happen, then the assumption that I do not want to donate my organs is equally as insulting.
In this case, a choice between the two options, with neither being assumed for the individual would be the ideal solution, although this poses its own problems with laziness and unwillingness to think about death. As with the 'opt-in' system, many people would not find time or be bothered to make a decision and this would therefore be left down to their family, much like it is at the moment.

The statement that organs may be used for students is not actually true. Unless expressed permission has been given, organs and tissues cannot be donated to education or science. It is a separate process entirely and any organs unable to be used for transplant will remain in the donor's body as opposed to automatically being donated to science.

In the case of Muslims only being able to donate if it's going to save a life, that is surely a personal decision they must make. It also depends on what you define as 'saving a life.' A heart transplant may immediately save somebody's life but a kidney transplant may also save their life by adding 10 or 15 years to their life expectancy. All organ donations, one way or another, save a life, depending on your definition of the term.

Alternative Options
The 'opt-out' system, which is in operation in Singapore involves groups of people in society being automatically not included in the system. In this case, Muslims as a group chose not to be involved and it is therefore not automatically assumed that they wish to donate their organs. A similar system could quite easily but put in place in the UK; Muslims and Gypsies and other groups fundamentally against organ donation would not become part of the 'opt-out' system so would not have to face their beliefs being disrespected or assumed. They, of course, would still have the choice to 'opt-in' if they so wished.
Another option is that organs can be taken from any patient who has not chosen to 'opt-out' unless their family state otherwise when they die. This is a system in place in Belgium. This eliminates the risk of people not having 'got round' to opting out and still allows some element of a late change in religion or personal belief. However, this option does still hold the issue that the current 'opt-in' programme possesses; that in times of grief, families are much more likely to say 'no' than 'yes.'

Mixing paperwork
Although to some it may be the case that your body being cut open is a 'bigger issue' than your body remaining the way it was, it could also be seen as equally as large an issue for your organs not to be donated due to mixed paperwork. Personally, if I was somehow to find out my organs had not been donated following my death due to mixing of paperwork, this would be as big an issue to me as a Gypsies body being cut open and organs used for donation. People feel just as passionately about their organs being donated as they do about their organs not being donated. So the mixing of paperwork is equally as potent and damaging on either side of the fence.

For the greatest good of the population as a whole, an 'opt-out' system of organ donation brings the most benefits. There are nearly 20,000,000 people registered as organ donors in the UK, with 7,259 people waiting for transplants. If an 'opt-out' system was introduced, this number would rocket and instead of a third of the population being organ donors, the figure would be closer to two thirds or three quarters. With systems such as those in place in Belgium and Singapore, minority groups in society would be protected, with an automatic 'opt-out' granted to them because of their religious beliefs or their family given the final decision surrounding their donation. The difference between the percentage of people on the organ donor register (31%) and the number of people who have stated they would be willing to donate (quoted as high as 85%) would be much smaller. Those who were passionately against donation would still have the ability to choose not to donate their organs.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not organ donation should be 'opt-out' or 'opt-in' revolves around political ideology and belief. The Socialist opinion would favour 'opt-out' as it undoubtedly benefits the population as a whole much more than 'opt-in'. The Capitalist view would be much more favourable towards the 'opt-in' system as it values the opinion of the individual much more strongly.


I thank Pro for the last round responce, it has denfitly been an interesting one!

The Majority

While point of what you have said are true, we do not live in a true democracy, and we do legislate for the minority, I will explain abit more what I mean with this.

I for example am Scottish. When you say "The most popular political party are voted in because the greatest proportion of the population support them", this doesn't seem true to me. Out of all the seats going in the last election, conservatives got 1 seat in Scotland, not a majority. Scotland is currently ruled over by a conservative prime minister based on that election. So even with your own example, votes do not transend to the end result quite as clearly as you have mentioned.

We also vote on parties, not on every individual change. A true democracy would put all big decicions like this to a vote, and in that case, yes the majority would decide. However we do not. Parties make general promises, they get voted in, and some of those promises are kept. They may very well go back o some though. You could vote on a party to change things to opt-out, and they could leave it the same.

In terms of legislating for the minority though, I did not mean that the minority get their way. What I was saying is that we legislate ti protect the monority. Take free speech laws for example... We have rules in place so that people can have their view heard. Why do we do this if it was for th emajority? If it was for the majority, we wouldn't need laws, it would be what most people think and would therefore not be any issue to people. We legislate to protect free speech so that the minority may have their say, however unpopular it is what they are saying, they still have a right to it. Even if only 1% of people wanted to speak out against something, freedom of speech is there for them to do so. There, for the sake of protecting the minority.

In the same sense, we should protect the minorities of this country just as much as majorities, and that is why I was saying it should not matter what the percentage of athiests to muslims to christians is. It should make no difference because we do not legislate for the majority, we do it to protect the smaller groups.

Determining The Religion & Alternative Options

I notice than Pro has missed out a responce to the point of determining religion, even though it was brought up in the very first round. I put it forward again however, If you cannot tell what religion a person is, how can you possibly make sure that you are abiding by that religions laws surrounding organ donation?

If a jew, a christian, an athiest, and a muslim all pass away on the same day, how can you tell? We cannot go on looks, since each religions followers can vary in looks as much as the next one. We cannot even go on tattoo's for they may have had a change of religion. Some people feel uneasy telling friends or family when they first convert, especially if they are in a social circle of a different religion, or a family that is all of a different religion. So even if we ask family members, how could we be sure?

You couldn't even go on church attentance etc. because someone could have a lifechanging moment at any point in their day, month or year. It could be a spontanious thing 2 seconds before walking out the door, and before they get a chance to tell the world about this new found part of their life something may happen.

If you cannot be 100% sure of someones religion when they come in, then no matter what alternative options you put forward, they won't work if the person can't tell you their specific religion. The only way to get this definitive proof that their religios beliefs make it ok for them to donate is if they tell you, and by essence, this would be opting in, the exact same way the system already works right now.

So as stated, unless you can 100% prove every persons religion in the uk withought having to ask them personally, there's now ay you can have an assumed opt-in without crossing someones religios beliefs or practices and possibly condemming them to an eternal hell.

Honouring of personal opinions

While Pro states that opt-in and opt-out systems would equally insult either side, I disagree, and will explain why.

Our body is our own personal property. It is not insulting to say "If you would like to, you can give us access to your body so that you can help save peoples lifes." However it is insulting to say "We are going to assume we have permission to access body parts without any given consent unless you tell us otherwise".


Pro says "In the case of Muslims only being able to donate if it's going to save a life, that is surely a personal decision they must make. It also depends on what you define as 'saving a life.'".. "All organ donations, one way or another, save a life, depending on your definition of the term."

This just highlights a point of mine. Muslims have a specific set of ways to determine what is life saving and what is not, and when it is ok for them to donate. It is important to them because if they donate without it being to dirctly save a life they are violating Muslim rules directly.

Again though, theres no way you would know if someone personally identifies with being muslim unless asking them. Family and friends could easily be in error.

Mixing Of Paperwork

I have to disagree. If your organs are not donated, yes I could see this not being what you wanted, and I'm sure you would feel passionate and probably angered that they haven't been put to the use for which you intended them, but nothing has changed, the just havent went through with an act that you gave permission for. They arent saying they defnitly will, your just saying "if there is still a waiting list and you need them, please feel free to do so." Who knows, the might develop a magic healing machine by then, By not taking you up on the offer you are not losing out on anything, especially if there is no demand..

However on the flip side, Someone not wanting to donate their organs is having those wishes completely negated in this case, which is a much worse fate. They are having parts of their person removed against will and beliefs and that cannot be undone. It causes harm directly to the wishes of that person in an un fixable way and if their belief is correct, might even be the diciding factor in whether this person gets into heavan or has an eternity of torture in hell. the latter is a worse fate.


Pro has not stated anyway to properly determine of what religion you are, without help directly. This is a fundamental reason against the opt-out system and shows that it would be flawed.

Many thanks to Con, good debate!
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
On second thought, since the winning argument was proffered in the final round, and because this was PRO's first debate here, I will give conduct to PRO. Welcome to DDO.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
Interesting and well-argued debate by both sides.

For me, the debate centered around religion, and in this sense, CON's uncontested point that Muslims (sorry to single out a religion) would require an on-the-spot assessment as to what exactly would constitute a "life-saving" use of the soon-to-be-deceased organs essentially negates the resolution.

Another point that made me think was the argument that freedom of expression being meant to protect that of the minority. You hear this a lot, especially when dealing with civil rights legislation, but after thinking about it I found it to be incorrect. The origins of such freedom (to my knowledge) stem from state persecution of religion, where a small minority (perhaps a ruling party with a set ideology) may persecute a large majority to cajole it. Most inalienable rights were designed as a social contract between the state and individuals to prevent state abuse of power. I'm not 100% on this, but that was the conclusion I reached because I agree that with PRO that democratically passed legislation is rule by majority over the objections of the minority.

Again, interesting debate, thanks to both for an interesting read.
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Vote Placed by wrichcirw 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I'm just too biased going in to vote on this. I even saw con's mixing paperwork arguments as in no way harmful to pro's case as intended, since in an opt-out system it'd just mean someone did not get their organs harvested... Both arguments could have been strengthened greatly by sources (such as when talking about the number of religious people, saying where those numbers came from).