Consultation launched on “opt-out” organ donation system

A CONSULTATION has been launched into an opt-out system for organ donation in England.

The Government believes that a change to an opt-out system would "shift the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation". In the consultation it is asking for comments on three defining questions in regard to the new system:

  • How much say should families have in their deceased relative’s decision to donate their organs?
  • When would exemptions to ‘opt-out’ be needed, and what safeguards will be necessary?
  • How might a new system affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith?

Statistics show that 80 per cent of people say they would be willing to donate their organs but only 36 per cent register to become an organ donor. In the past year around 1,100 families in the UK decided not to allow organ donation because they did not know the wishes of their relatives.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Every day, three people die for want of a transplant, which is why our historic plans to transform the way organ donation works are so important. We want as many people as possible to have their say as we shape the new opt-out process.

"But as well as changing the law, we also need to change the conversation. It can be a difficult subject to broach, but overcoming this fatal reluctance to talk openly about our wishes is key to saving many more lives in the future.

"Only about half of adults on the current organ register say they have discussed their wishes with a relative."

Dr John Chisholm, BMA Medical Ethics Committee chair, commented: "This consultation into the future of organ donation in England is welcome news and an important opportunity for groups such as the BMA who’ve advocated for a ‘soft’ opt-out system to have their views heard.

"Many patients are anxiously awaiting news of whether they will receive a life-saving transplant and we hope this is the first step towards addressing the serious shortage of organs for donation in England.

"We hope this consultation allows the public to become fully aware of the process and that the potential increase in transplants can be facilitated and matched with adequate resources."

The consultation closes on 6 March 2018.