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RCN canvases views of members on organ donation rules

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The Royal College of Nursing has announced it is reviewing its official position on organ donation in response planned changes to the law in parts of the UK that would mark a major change of stance.

The college has today launched an online survey in a bid to gather the views of nurses on consent for organ and tissue donation after death. The policy review comes in the light of planned changes to the law on consent for organ donation in England and Scotland.

“This is an issue that many people feel passionately about”

Rachel Cackett

Currently, both countries – together with Northern Ireland – operate an “opt-in” system where people who express a wish to donate organs and tissue after death will be considered. Methods of expression include signing up to the NHS Organ Donation Register or carrying an organ donor card.

Where their wishes are not clear, then their family would normally be approached to make a decision on their behalf.

However, Scotland and England are now seeking to follow in the footsteps of Wales by introducing some form of “opt-out” system, where people are presumed to have given consent unless they have actively recorded their decision not to donate on a formal register.

In 2015, the law in Wales changed to what has been described as a “soft opt-out”, which allows families some level of involvement in the decision to remove organs or tissue and includes a number of safeguards when it comes to who is presumed to have given consent.

The RCN’s current official position – agreed in 2009 – is to support an opt-in system but the college said it was now time to look again at this policy.

It said the review was partly in response to plans to change the laws on consent in England and Scotland and also to understand the experiences of members in Wales.

donor card

“This is an issue that many people feel passionately about. Whatever your views, please do share them through the survey and make sure your voice is heard in our review,” said RCN policy adviser Rachel Cackett.

“All members’ views are important, regardless of how regularly they deal with these issues in their day-to-day work or where they live in the UK,” she said.

At present, there are no plans to change the law in Northern Ireland, which is being run directly from Westminster after the collapse of the power-sharing executive this time last year.

While Northern Ireland has decided not to change laws on consent at this time, the college said it was still keen to hear the views of members working in the region.

The survey closes at 11pm on 11 February 2018.

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