England May Use an ‘Opt-Out’ System for Organ Donation
New scheme could mean that people will have to actively opt out of organ donation
A ‘presumed consent’ system of organ donation is already in place in Wales, and now England could be following suit. It would mean that if people did not want their body parts harvested after death, they would need to actively opt out. The British Association has previously called for an opt-out system for England, revealing that although 66% of people say they would donate their organs after death, only 39% had signed the organ donor register.
The scheme has already seen successful results in Wales; six months after it was launched, the government spoke of how dozens more lives had been saved. 60 organs were transplanted between December and June 2016, with half of those coming from people whose consent had been deemed. The organs were donated from 31 people, with 10 of them coming from those who had not explicitly confirmed that they wanted to be donors. In the same period in 2014-15, 23 people donated their organs and 21 donated in 2013-14.
Last week, ministers in Edinburgh declared plans for a “soft opt-out” system in Scotland; this would mean that unless families of the deceased strongly objected, the patients would be assumed to have agreed to donate their organs. When asked if a similar system was going to be introduced in England, a No 10 spokeswoman confirmed that this is a possibility.
“Organ donation hit a record high last year, and we obviously want that to continue to rise,” she said. “We are keeping a close eye on how the changes in Wales and Scotland are affecting donation rates in considering if we would change our policy.”
Aileen Campbell, the Scottish health minister noted the sensitivities surrounding the issue:
“We should not forget that organ donation is a gift, which can only occur as a result of tragic circumstances and every donor and their family has made a selfless decision which has enabled others to live,” she said.
“Moving to an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation will be part of the long-term culture change in attitudes to encourage people to support donation.”