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Organ donation rules to change next year

Presumed consent will come into effect in Spring 2020 after clearing final hurdle in Parliament

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Organ donation will move to a system of presumed consent in England from next year, Parliament agreed the legislation yesterday.

The legislation bringing in the changes will be known as Max and Keira's Law after a boy who received a heart transplant and the girl who donated it.

Under the new system, consent will be presumed unless people have opted out. Currently, England has an opt-in scheme.

Dr John Chisholm, Britsh Medical Association (BMA) Medical Ethics Committee chair, said: “The BMA has been at the forefront of the campaign to move towards an opt-out system for nearly two decades. We firmly believe that an opt-out system, as one part of a broader strategy, is the best way to increase donation rates. This shift will allow us to build on the improvements that have already been made to the organ donation system, in order to maximise the number of lives that can be saved and transformed by an organ transplant.

“It is now essential that attention is given to publicising the forthcoming change so that people have the opportunity to think about their wishes and to opt out of donation if they wish to do so. We also need to ensure that the NHS is given the resources needed to make this potential increase in donation a reality.”

Presumed consent has been operating in Wales since December 2015, and organ donation consent rates in Wales are now the highest in the UK at 75%.

John Forsythe, medical director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, says: “We very much hope that once this new law comes into force in Spring 2020, we will see similar results to those we have witnessed in Wales – with more people and families agreeing to donation, enabling more lifesaving transplants to take place.

“We will work closely with the government to ensure that the introduction of the new opt-out approach is implemented successfully. Between now and then we will carry out an information campaign to make sure everyone knows about the change in the law, as well as the choice and options available to them, and that effective measures are in place to enable those who do not wish to donate to record their decision and to ensure that this decision is respected.”

Around three people die every day in the UK in need of an organ and more than 1,000 families say no to organ donation every year.

“Even after the new law, our specialist nurses will still speak with a potential donor’s family,” Forsythe added. “It remains vital that people continue to have conversations with their family, to remove any uncertainty and offer peace of mind for those who find themselves facing the tragic loss of a loved one.”

The Scottish Parliament is also this week debating bringing in an opt-out system, and an opt-in system remains in Northern Ireland.

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