Two-Thirds of Population Would Support Assumed Consent for Organ Donation

A poll conducted by the British Medical Association suggests that two-thirds of the British population would accept a system of presumed consent for organ donation.

This policy has already been instigated in Wales, but England, Northern Ireland and Scotland have maintained the existing opt-in approach.

BMA leaders believe that a switch to presumed consent would be beneficial for the healthcare system, but such a step can nonetheless be considered controversial.

Medical ethics have always been based on the notion of informed consent, so going against this would essentially be an unprecedented step.

Yet healthcare experts warn that the current model is inevitably resulting in a shortage of organs across the UK.

And a BMA poll found that 65% of 2,011 people surveyed would back an opt-out system.

The system that the BMA has suggested would enable families to prevent the organ donation process if they believes that there is an unregistered objection.

BMA ethics committee chair and former GPC chair Dr John Chisholm believes that there is a real need to examine the consent arrangements for organ donation.

“Although organ transplantation has seen amazing medical achievements it has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential. These figures show that in the current system, a large number of people who wish to donate their organs are not signing up to the register. Vital opportunities to save people’s lives are being missed.”

Chisholm went on to outline the extent of the problems related to organ donation in Britain, and the success of the presumed consent policy in Wales.

“Around 10,000 people in the UK are in need of an organ transplant, with 1,000 people dying each year while still on the waiting list. As a doctor it is difficult to see your patients dying and suffering when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant. Since soft opt-out was adopted in Wales, 160 organs have been transplanted, almost a quarter of which were down to the new system.”

The chair of the ethics committee finished the statement on the subject by reiterating the position of the British Medical Association.

“The BMA is calling for all UK governments to follow suit and adopt a soft opt-out system. If we have an opportunity to address the chronic shortage of organs and save the lives of patients across the UK, surely we should be taking it.”

More people than ever before across the UK donated their organs after their deaths last year, according to the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2015/16, being published today.

In 2015/16, 1,364 people became organ donors when they died and their donations resulted in 3,519 transplants taking place.


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