Is this your body?

Reading that many organ donors are having their wishes blocked by relatives reminded me, once again, that people seem to have very little understanding of the simple law regarding corpses (which also applies when it comes to deciding how to dispose of them and scandals such as that of ’tissue retention’ from dead babies). Much as with bricks-and-mortar property, once the life spark has vacated residence, the empty body is, legally speaking, someone else’s property. If there is a will, this will dictate who gets it, otherwise it goes to the next of kin. Thus, it would be a whole lot easier if being on the organ donor list was clearly stated, as it already is in theory, a legal agreement allowing organs to be harvested, even if the family aren’t happy about it. If you aren’t on the list (even if you have expressed a desire to be harvested), then the decision is upto your heir. As much as I sympathise with relatives who don’t want their loved one to be sliced up (and I am happy to go on record as saying I don’t want to donate my organs), it is not their decision to make if the deceased (legally) has decided otherwise, anymore than they had any rights over their body in life. Likewise, if you have left instructions on how you wish your body to be disposed of and there is no legal or other compelling reason why they cannot be followed, the family has no right to do otherwise, regardless of how they might feel about your decision. Finally, whenever a story about ’tissue retention’ breaks, it seems the police, as usual proving unversed in the law, are powerless to act – yet, all they have to do is arrest the doctors involved for theft. There would be no hesitation in arresting a healthworker who walked off with a dead child’s iPod, yet it seems they can take whatever they want out of the child, in the name of ‘science’, without permission, due to an inability to apply the law as it stands. When it comes to the dead, we need to ask :  Is this your body?

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