The RCN has voted not to back an opt-out policy for organ donation, following a consultation of its members.
The membership-wide consultation found that 43% of nurses were in favour of organ donation on a ‘presumed consent’ basis in the UK.
Under this type of scheme, people would have to object specifically if they did not want their organs to be available for transplant after they died.
Only around 50 nurses responded individually to the consultation, with a further 100 nurses giving their views thruogh joint responses.
Of the individual nurses who responded, 57% wanted the RCN to support the current national opt-in policy, which means a person has to volunteer to be an organ donor.
The responses from RCN regional boards and forums, and one joint submission from 40 nurses at University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, produced a variety of opinions.
The RCN, which previously had no formal position on organ donation, also voted to closely monitor the progress of the government’s Organ Donation Taskforce. Last year, this introduced 14 measures to try toincrease the number of people signed up to be organ donors, with the possibility of reviewing the opt-out scheme in 2013.
Nurses at the RCN council meeting said that nurse co-ordinators of organ donor schemes were key to boosting the number of people willing to donate their organs.
RCN president Maura Buchanan said that evidence from Spain showed that even though the law there was changed to adopt an opt-out position, it was the role played by transplant co-ordinators that had been credited with improving the number of donors.
In January 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed calls by the medical establishment for a system of presumed consent, saying that thousands of lives could be saved if everyone was automatically on an organ donation register unless they had exercised their option to opt out.