Westminster Diary

8th August 2018

Organ donation saves lives. Over 40,000 people are alive in England today thanks to individuals and their families agreeing to make organ donations. But there is a shortage. At the end of March 2018 over 5,000 people in England were still waiting for a transplant and very sadly 500 people died last year because a suitable organ was not available.

The vast majority of people say that they would be willing to donate their organs after they die, but a far smaller proportion of people have actually recorded a wish to be an organ donor.

To address this challenge, the Prime Minister announced proposals to move to an opt-out system for organ donation.  A public consultation was launched to examine how an opt-out system would work in practice. The consultation received around 17,000 responses and the outcome was announced in the past days. 

The proposals set out that from spring 2020, everybody will be considered willing to donate their organs after they die unless they have recorded a decision not to do so or are in an excluded group.

The public will be given time to consider the impact of this change and the government will launch a national media campaign to raise awareness.

While the default position will change, there will always be a discussion involving the family, the specialist nurse, and clinicians, if donation is a possibility on someone’s death.

And since faith often plays an important part in one’s organ donation decision, the government has proposed measures to make sure people feel confident that their faith will be considered if they sign up to be a donor.

People will be able to record their decision on the NHS app from the end of 2018, which will make the register more accessible.

There is significant cross-party support for these measures, exemplified by the unanimous support received by a Private Member’s Bill in February 2018, to introduce an organ donation system of presumed consent.

Meanwhile, progress is also being made in improving rates of voluntary donation. In 2015/16 the highest ever deceased donor rate in the UK was recorded with 1,364 deceased donors resulting in 3,529 transplants. This was achieved by increasing the number of specialist nurses and strengthening the donation infrastructure.

For those with an interest in this issue, the full outcome of the consultation can be downloaded here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/introducing-opt-out-consent-for-organ-and-tissue-donation-in-england

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