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Monday, 11 May 2009

Consultation needed on organ donation debate

The Health Minister's announcement, to look into changing the law surrounding organ donation in Wales, in particular, the consideration to introducing an opt-out system, is a good move.

For many years now we've backed the idea of a “soft” opt-out system. There is little doubt that such a system would produce a far higher potential donor rate than at present, which is far too low at 22%. Experience of other European countries that have already introduced an opt-out scheme have proven this to be the case. More than 500 people in Wales are still waiting for transplants and one person dies each day in the UK, waiting.

A “soft” opt-out system involves people having the opportunity at EVERY stage, to make it known if they do not want to donate their organs after death. Consent to donation would only be presumed, if individuals expressed no objection. Families would also be consulted and donation would not proceed if relatives would be seriously distressed. Doctors would consult with patients’ and their loved ones, every step of the way.

In previous public opinion surveys, the vast majority of people say they would be willing to donate their organs. Unfortunately, this does not translate into people who actually sign the register. This is where the crux of the problem lies. People want to be donors, but for whatever reason, they just don't get round to signing the register. Of course, that would not be an issue with an opt-out system and that is how a change to legislation, could make all the difference to anyone left waiting on the organ donor register.

By making improvements to the transplant infrastructure as well, such as more training, increasing the availability of transplant co-ordinators, reviewing the health service’s capacity to cope and ensuring sufficient availability of intensive and critical care beds, then Wales would really be able to say it had made a significant contribution to saving the lives of those on transplant lists.

Another clear message from this consultation is that far more needs to be done to ensure the public is fully informed about the current system and fully involved in any future changes and decisions.

What do you think about introducing a "soft" opt-out system?

Be interesting to know what doctors' views are on this...


  1. martin sheppard19 May 2009 at 10:04

    have opt-in or opt-out system, but a radical change should be to make this cut both ways.

    If an opt-out system, anyone opting out is therefore disqualified from receiving a donation. If opt-in, only those who have opted-in should be allowed to receive a donation.

    This is fair, and would increase donor numbers whilst decreasing demand.

  2. Thanks for sharing your views on what is for some, a very contentious subject Martin.

    Whilst I appreciate the point you make, and it is an interesting suggestion; it does oversimplify the debate.

    There may - to a number of people be legitimate reasons why they would opt out - and such an approach would then in essence be punitive.

    I know punitive measures in health care are not supported by the BMA and the profession as it comes up in many other debates, and its not something I would be able to personally support, either.

    A trusted opt out system with comprrhensive transplant programs will meet the need of those desperately aewaiting organs, even if some people opt themselves out.


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