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BMA backs opt-out organ donation

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The way in which organs are donated and who donates them should be examined in a bid to improve donation rates and ultimately save lives, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

The BMA says in a briefing paper that it believes that the introduction of an “opt-out” or presumed consent system for organ donation, with appropriate safeguards, would transform people’s lives.

According to reports, the BMA briefing was examining the changes to the organ donation system that have taken place since the publication of the last major investigation by the government-appointed Organ Donation Taskforce in January 2008.

Donation rates have improved by around 27% in the last four years, according to Tim Statham, chief executive of the National Kidney Federation, who last month warned that the government will miss the 50% target set for 2013.

Following the criticism, public health minister Anne Milton said the government was on target to achieve a 35% increase in donor rates by March this year. Reports say that in the briefing, the BMA points out that, even if that target is met, people on transplant waiting lists will still be dying because of an organ shortage.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, one of the authors of the report, told the BBC that people must now decide whether they want to put up with the current situation or make efforts to change the system. She said: “These could include an opt-out system, whether we should include higher risk donors or pressing for more intensive care beds in the NHS.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Organ donation should be a gift, not a resource to be taken. More resources should be given to publicity to persuade people to donate their organs.
    Television medical dramas e.g. Casualty, Holby City frighten off a lot of potential donors by treating the subject in a very unethical manner. How about trying to persuade them to present a truthful picture of organ donation?

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  • I am against an opt-out scheme as it is coercive and like other opt out schemes puts those who do not wish to participate under pressure to opt out. Furthermore one might be opted into such a scheme without being aware of it and not have the opportunity or be in a position to opt out.

    In my view it is an infringement on personal liberty and also because names will be obtained from some data base such as health records or electoral roll, etc.

    As it says above organ donation is a gift and should be an entirely free choice at the discretion of each individual without coercion and, for those who do not wish to participate, without an obligation to give any reasons why.

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