So it’s your 29th birthday and life is good. After working your way up through your twenties your career is finally going places, you earned that big promotion last month and can finally start looking at German cars with poor fuel economy. You’ve got a nice flat in a nice part of town and a full social life but still have time for the gym once a week and 5-a-Side on Wednesdays. Sundays are still spent sitting around a table eating mum’s roast and laughing at dad’s jokes. And to top it all off you think you might have just met The One. As your mind contemplates full nappies, school runs and Cotswolds cottages your pocket starts to buzz. The message reads:
Citizen 27815696107, You are hereby ordered to present yourself at The Sir Benedict Cumberbatch Hospital at 6am on February 25th for removal of a section of your Liver for transplant. Failure to appear will result in your apprehension by police using your digital tracking implant.
It is a terrible vision of where society is headed, all the more troubling as it is increasingly possible. How long before a simple heel prick test at birth can provide a detailed medical profile valid for a lifetime, including suitability for organ donation or bone marrow compatibility?
As immediate as the technology may be public acceptance of compulsory organ donation seems like a far-fetched Sci-Fi fantasy, a discarded Doctor Who plot line or one of those cheap, dystopian future films that Hollywood regurgitates ad nauseam – minimal computer effects needed as the future needn’t look that far away and enough depth for unexceptional teenagers to consider it profound.
However if you consider the motives, ethics and consequences of mandatory organ donation you realise it is actually remarkably similar to how our taxes are collected and used to fund an unrelenting welfare state.
We have no choice when it comes to the collection of our taxes, for most they are deducted before they see their pay, the rest of us risk the courts if we fail settle up. Every five years we face a binary choice whether to pay a little more or a little less but the prospect of a serious reduction is never on the ballot (though I expect a serious increase will be an option in 2020).
But more importantly we have precious little say when it comes to how our taxes are spent on others. None of us would ever give our liver, kidneys or any other organ to a shameless reprobate who spent his life pickling his organs in white cider and neglecting a sizable brood of delinquents. Yet we have no choice when it comes to our money enabling him to sustain this lifestyle.
It is impossible to remove any organs without causing considerable pain and triggering long term life changes, even a minor procedure like bone marrow extraction is excruciatingly painful. By way of comparison we will never know the true cost of excessive taxation on millions of hard working people. And we’re not simply talking about holidaying in Bognor instead of Barcelona or foregoing designer labels – How many people have had to delay retirement or work longer hours away from their families to fund the lives of millions of people who appear to be wholly unable to make sacrifices themselves? How many of us might have been able to give our kids a little bit of extra help? A better school? A car? A deposit? No. For being responsible and supporting ourselves our children must do without what we have worked for to provide for those who decline to try.
However, just as the nightmare of compulsory organ harvesting has parallels with our current taxation system, so the current scheme of voluntary organ donation suggests a better, more human way for us to support those in need. Under the current system the act of giving is transformative both for the donor and the recipient. The recipient feels an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and a fundamental responsibility to honour the sacrifice made for them. The donor benefits from an incredible sense of well-being and the increased self-esteem that comes from the knowledge that they have saved the life of someone they deem worthy.
This is, of course, nothing more than the simple practice of charity and it would be a far more responsible and a far more responsive way for us to deal with those who, through no fault of their own, need some form of support. This targeted aid would make an incomparable difference to thousands of people’s lives, especially compared to the current scatter-gun approach where ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ and the state’s word is final.
Some will always sneer at the idea of charity as an instrument of social support (Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ was shouted down by the ear-splitting screams of undeserving entitlement) but after seventy years of the welfare state it is clear that our current system is causing as many problems as it is solving.
Don’t believe it could work? I bet a few doors down from you there’s an old fella who struggles to get out. Ask him what he’d prefer – a fiver a week extra in his pension or a chat over a cuppa and a trip to the shops? We are all human and money is no longer enough to fix the social dysfunction at the heart of so many of our communities. Charity is one of the noblest qualities of the human condition, exemplifying the very best of man. State-sponsored welfare turns us into brainless cattle, with no care for responsibility, propriety or consequence. I say it is time we aspired to something better.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty