Have your say on a new ‘opt-out’ system for organ donation in England

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP has asked people to overcome their reluctance to talk about organ donation with relatives. He has launched a public consultation on a new opt-out system.

NHS Blood and Transplant figures show that in the past year around 1,100 families in the UK decided not to allow organ donation because they did not know whether their relatives would have wanted it.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, said:

“Every day, 3 people die for want of a transplant, which is why our historic plans to transform the way organ donation works are so important.

“We want as many people as possible to have their say as we shape the new opt-out process.”


Organ donation opt-out consultation launched image (c) UK Gov Open source

Opt-out shifts the balance

In October, the Prime Minister announced a change to an ‘opt-out’ system. This would shift the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation.

At present, 80% of people say they would be willing to donate their organs. But only 36% register to become an organ donor.

It is hoped that changing the system to an opt-out model of consent will mean more viable organs become available for use on the NHS. This could save thousands of lives.

Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, Simon Gillespie, said:

“The government’s commitment to an opt-out system is a commitment to ending the pain felt by families who risk losing a loved one while they wait for an organ. There is a desperate shortage of organ donors in the UK, but around 8 in 10 of us say we do want to donate our organs.”

More organs means more transplants

An opt-out system in England would mean that more people get the life-saving heart transplant they need. England has one of the lowest rates of consent to donation in Europe.

Over the next 3 months, the government is asking for comments on the defining questions of the new system:

  • How much say should families have in their deceased relative’s decision to donate their organs?
  • When would exemptions to ‘opt-out’ be needed, and what safeguards will be necessary?
  • How might a new system affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith?

Only about half of adults on the current organ register say they have discussed their wishes with a relative.

Director of Policy at Kidney Care UK, Fiona Loud, said:

“With 8 out of 10 people on the transplant list hoping for a kidney and at least one person dying every day while waiting, this consultation is a unique chance to change this. Whatever your views are on organ donation, please share them.”