When Egyptians buried their deceased royals, they left all kinds of tools and items behind because they thought they would be needed in the afterlife — imagine if your family forgot something. And along with essentials like jewelry and furniture, they also buried a person with their organs, because if you need your tiara in heaven you certainly can’t forget your spleen, right? Do you think you would die again if you didn’t have your heart when you met Ra? I don’t think this was a very carefully crafted religion.
We can all recognize superstition and absurd tradition in hindsight, but can we recognize it happening today? Contrary to our Egyptian ancestors, we’ve realized that furniture and jewelry might serve the living better than the dead, but why are we still leaving organs with the deceased? I imagine some of this is done out of consideration for the worms, but there might be a better use for them. How about donating them to people who are still living, but won’t be much longer without a new spleen?
Besides the Anubis revivalists, I bet most people think we should donate organs upon death, but this requires some kind of agency on the part of an individual. I am pretty lazy and haven’t registered, just like I’m sure many of you and people you know haven’t registered for equally legitimate reasons. Why do we leave people’s lives up to the motivation of a lethargic populace?
The U.S. currently uses an opt-in system, and it would make a lot more sense if we had an opt-out one. Rather than having to sign up and file a bunch of paperwork to assert that you are a conscious individual, we could simply assume that humanity is full of somewhat decent people and have everyone on the organ donation list. If for some reason you think Anubis will bounce you at the door for not having your kidneys in the afterlife, you can opt out of this very reasonable policy. On the other hand, if you are like most people, ambivalent, or are one of the few who take selfish pleasure in the form of charity, you can simply do nothing and your organs will be donated to those who can use them after you croak. What’s not to like?
I’ll tell you. This policy may be a good solution to our paucity of transplantable vitalities, but I think we can just skip all the libertarian-pleasing foreplay for a policy that does the most amount of good: mandatory organ donation. I for one think it’s a travesty to allow any viable organ to go into the ground if it could save someone else’s life. Perhaps we could have the illusion of an opt-out policy so that then when someone tries to opt out we just take out their organs then and there as they aren’t worthy of participating in the human race.
But putting the manslaughter aspect of the policy aside, what would honestly be wrong with society claiming organs in the event of someone’s death? The government already takes your income away in taxes. When you die the government can take money or property from your estate, and rightly so. So why don’t we just bundle organs in with the estate tax? Your progeny can actually use the funds from their dead relatives, but they don’t get anything out of burying a body with all its innards. Your loved one is going to be maggot riddled carrion at some point anyway, why not get the organs out while the getting is good? On the day you need a new kidney, you’ll have wished you made this policy a reality.
Teddy Papes is the editorial page editor.