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Opt-out and consent
  1. Douglas MacKay
  1. Correspondence to Professor Douglas MacKay, Department of Public Policy, Core Faculty Member, Center for Bioethics, University of North Carolina, 217 Abernethy Hall, 131 S. Columbia Street, Campus Box 3435, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; dmackay{at}


A chief objection to opt-out organ donor registration policies is that they do not secure people's actual consent to donation, and so fail to respect their autonomy rights to decide what happens to their organs after they die. However, scholars have recently offered two powerful responses to this objection. First, Michael B Gill argues that opt-out policies do not fail to respect people's autonomy simply because they do not secure people's actual consent to donation. Second, Ben Saunders argues that opt-out policies do secure people's actual—if not explicit—consent, provided that certain conditions are satisfied. I argue that Gill and Saunders’ arguments are not successful. My conclusion does not imply that jurisdictions should not implement opt-out policies—their failure to secure people's actual consent may be outweighed by other considerations. But, my conclusion does imply that Gill and Saunders are mistaken to claim that opt-out policies are respectful of people's autonomy.

  • Autonomy
  • Donation/Procurement of Organs/Tissues
  • Public Policy
  • Rights
  • Informed Consent

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