11th October 2017

England Considering Opt-Out System For Organ Donation

England Considering Opt-Out System For Organ Donation

The Prime Minister, Theresa May has announced that the government is launching a public consultation to gather opinions on whether to introduce presumed consent (also known as opt-out) for organ donation in England. The consultation will be launched by the end of the year.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Theresa May explained that a move to presumed consent for organ donation will work towards saving more lives of those waiting for desperately needed organ transplants.

The soft opt-out system means patients are automatically signed up to be organ donors when they die, and they have to opt-out if they do not want their organs used for transplants after their death.

The announcement comes almost two years after Wales moved to opt-out system, and just a few months after Scotland’s decision to do the same.

Currently, there are around 6,500 people in the UK waiting for a life-saving transplant, and three of those die every day due to the shortage of organs available for transplant. Despite 96 per cent of the British population agreeing with organ donation in principle, only around a third have actually taken the time to sign up to the organ donor register.

The Department of Health confirmed that there would be a 12-week consultation later this year after Prime Minister mentioned the policy in her speech to the conference.

The Department of Health will seek opinions on:

  • How the issue of consent should be managed within the National Health Service
  • How opt-out could work in practice, what safeguards would be necessary, and how families could be supported
  • How government can increase rates of organ donation, particularly from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
  • What role technology could play in helping people to discuss their preferences with family

The Director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, Sally Johnson welcomed the government’s commitment and said that she hoped the consultation would "drive a national conversation about organ donation”.

The chair of British Medical Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that the decision to introduce an opt-out system for organ donation in England is excellent news. The BMA has promoted and campaigned tirelessly on this for years and has the potential to save many lives.

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