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Give us UK wide opt-out system for organ donation, say doctors’ leaders

Motion passed at BMA ARM for doctors to lobby for similar set-up to one in Wales

Caroline White

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Doctors’ leaders have today called for an opt-out system to be put in place for organ donation, following a vote today at the BMA’s annual gathering in Belfast.

The motion passed at the Annual Representative Meeting urged doctors to lobby the respective governments of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to put in place an opt-out system similar to the one in Wales, which has been in place since last year.

The BMA has long advocated an opt-out system with safeguards for organ donation and continues to believe this is the best option for the UK to reduce the shortage of organs.

Currently, the UK has an opt-in organ donation system where a person has to register their consent to donate their organs in the event of their death.

Under an opt-out system it would be presumed that consent for organ donation had been given unless a person had registered an objection in advance.

In the absence of any registered objection, family members would still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection, as an extra safeguard, before any procedures went ahead.

Dr John Chisholm, who chairs the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said that amazing medical advances had been achieved in the field of organ transplantation.

“But [this] has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential, so I’m pleased to see this motion pass today. The BMA has long believed that an opt-out system, as part of an overall package of measures to increase donation, would increase rates even further and save more lives. Indeed, the BMA has been lobbying for this change throughout the UK since 1999 and will continue to do so.”

He continued: “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. It is even more difficult when we know that lives are being lost unnecessarily because of poor organisation, lack of funding or because people who are willing to donate organs after their death simply never get around to making their views known, resulting in relatives making a decision without knowing whether the individual was willing to donate.”

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