Hawaii legalised assisted suicide this week. It becomes the seventh American jurisdiction to do so. Since 1997, the legislatures of Hawaii, Oregon, Washington state, California, Colorado, Vermont and the District of Columbia have passed laws permitting assisted suicide. In Montana, a court decision found that it was legal, but there has been no legislation.
The new law follows the controversial Oregon model. One of the drawbacks of this legislation is its definition of "terminal illness". It is usually understood to be a condition which will lead to death withinn six months or a year. But if a patient decides to spurn all treatment, treatment which could keep them alive for years, his or her illness will automatically become "terminal". This is a flimsy basis for such an important law.
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A multitude of solutions have been proposed to solve the problem of chronic organ shortages in Western nations. One recent proposal, outlined in an article in the April edition of Bioethics, considers how social media might be utilised to solicit more donations.
Warwick Medical School academics Greg Moorlock and Heather Draper suggest that governments should consider utilising a social media platform akin to Facebook to solicit donations for patients in need of a transplant. Moorlock and Draper suggest that the controlled release of recipient information -- information that takes the recipient from being a “statistical individual” to an “identifiable person” -- could greatly increase the number of organs donated by living donors. The authors write:
One can appeal to people by providing facts, figures, and impartial generalized reports, but something that prompts a stronger and immediate emotional reaction may be more effective at motivating them to provide a solution...using ‘identifiable victims’ within a personalized approach to promoting donation may therefore be an effective way to increase living kidney donation.The authors do not outline a concrete model for their proposal, though they suggest that a government-run website with donor profiles and contact details would be appropriate.
They caution against a range of pitfalls for a state-run donor-recipient matching service. The website could turn into a “beauty-contest”, and it could also be the unwitting catalyst for an underground organ market (by virtue of donors and recipients covertly exchanging money for organs). Yet the authors suggest that the potential for such a service means that it is at least deserving of further research:
Further research exploring responses to social media organ donation campaigns, as well as motivations behind Publically Solicited Donation (PSD), more generally would be extremely helpful for establishing how our suggested approach could be best used...if implemented correctly, [this approach] could increase rates of living kidney donation without significantly undermining the justice of kidney allocation.