Cash for corpses 2

Charles 4 Comments


You heard it on the news? You read it in your newspaper? The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a report calling on the government to find out of people like the idea of getting a free funeral in exchange for donating their organs.

Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, says: “The possibility of sparing relatives the financial burden of a funeral might encourage more people to register as donors.”

The report rules out offering people an up-front cash inducement in exchange for agreeing to donate an organ or two sometime down the line.

The whole scheme is so fraught with contradictions you wonder how it ever saw the light of day. The point being that those who agree to donate organs cannot be sure where or how they are going to die; unless a person dies in hospital in pretty good health, their organs are no use.  No use = no funeral payment.

So no potential donor is going to be able to bank on a free funeral.

Which means that donors would be mad not to make provision for their funeral anyway. They may even do the dumb and trusting thing and buy a funeral plan or other financial product.

So when the cheque for three grand arrives, what does it go towards? Furnishings? White goods? A plasma TV?

It’s a turkey, Professor Dame Marilyn. And don’t give us this talk about rewards for altruism. Altruism is by definition its own reward.

An interesting thing about this report is that no one has picked up that it is not the first time the Nuffield Council has flown this kite. It first flew it in April 2010.


Guardian report here. Telegraph report here. Daily Mail report here

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gloria mundi
10 years ago

Another turkey bites the dust (we hope!) Good shooting, Charles.

10 years ago

Leaving aside for a moment the obvious holes in this crocheted rag, I’ve been carrying this document with me everywhere I go for the last couple of years: PLEASE DON’T TRANSPLANT MY ORGANS That internal organs can be artificially sustained, and transplanted and go on functioning in someone else’s body, suggests that they have a life force that is independent of that of the host’s body. However; it is less clear that their identity is independent of that of the person in whom they evolved. I do not think personal identity can be separated entirely from physical identity; and so… Read more »

Charles Cowling
10 years ago

Ah, how very interesting, Jonathan. I’d meant to touch on this, now you bring it up (it occurred to me as I was walking the dogs, then evaporated when I was writing the blog). Yes: what is the identity of a dead human? You have clearly thought this through (in no uncertain terms, characteristically enough!) This business of harvesting organs even as the heart continues to beat (the brain having died) makes a clear statement about this. It is not the only show in town. Thank you for making your point so very eloquently and cogently.

Charles Cowling
10 years ago

Oh, I should add to that, thank you for giving us your take on how you define your identity when dead. I had got no further than the notion.