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Organ Donation Bill gets its second reading for opt-out system

Labour leader urges MPs to support the proposed change

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 23 February 2018

A private member’s bill on deemed consent for organ donation has passed its second reading in the House of Commons.

Commenting, British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “This excellent news, that opt-out organ donation moves one step closer to becoming law, will be reassuring to the roughly 5,500 people awaiting an organ in England and their families and friends.

“We encouraged our members to write to their MP asking for their support of this bill, and I would like to thank all those who supported this life-saving move today, and also to thank the Government for giving its backing to the Bill.

“Every day, three people in the UK die waiting for a donated organ. At the same time, organs that could have saved lives are buried or cremated, despite our polls which show that more than two-thirds of people have a clear wish to donate their organs when they die.

“The sooner these changes become law, the sooner we can maximise the number of lives saved from donations from the majority who are happy for their organs to be used after their death, while ensuring those who object to donating their organs can opt out quickly and easily.”

The bill, in its second reading debate, sponsored by Labour MP, Geoffrey Robinson, seeks to change organ donation in England to an opt-out system, whereby consent to donate organs in the event of death will be presumed unless the individual has opted out.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, made a brief appearance in the Commons to urge MPs to support the ‘wonderful’ measure. He said the change would ‘save an awful lot of people’s lives’.

Mr Robinson, MP for Coventry North West, told MPs that the UK has some of the lowest rates of consent in Western Europe. He warned that ‘a certain inertia’ had set in.

Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said the Department of Health and Social Care will be supporting the bill at its second reading, and working closely with Geoffrey Robinson ‘to ensure it delivers’.

The bill also has the support of all seven major UK parties, as well as charities including Kidney Care UK, the British Lung Foundation, and the British Heart Foundation.

The bill needs the support of 100 MPs.

A change in law would bring England in line with Wales, which adopted an opt-out system for consent in 2015, with exemptions for those under 18, or adults who cannot make informed decisions. Consent for organ donation in Wales has risen from 58% in 2011/12 to 64% in 2016/17.

NHS Blood and Transplant has developed an education pack for 11-16 year olds for use in science lessons, to urge teachers to use organ donation teaching resources to help pupils contribute to the Government’s consultation into an opt-out system. The consultation runs until March 6th.

However, in an interview in The Daily Telegraph, last week, Claire Williment, the head of Transplant Development at NHS Blood and Transplant, warned an opt-out system would only improve waiting lists as part of a wider strategy, including more specialist nurses trained to seek families’ permission as loved-ones die, and by raising awareness.

There are currently 6,296 people on the transplant waiting list, including 148 children.

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