BMA backs 'opt-out' organ donation scheme

BMA leaders have called for the UK-wide adoption of an opt-out organ donation system that will go ahead in Wales from 2015.

The Welsh plans will mean patients are assumed to consent to organ donation unless they, or possibly their relatives, opt out.

The Scottish government will await the outcome of the change in Wales before considering an opt-out donation policy, while the Northern Ireland government plans a public consultation on the policy.

BMA Scotland chairman, GP Dr Brian Keighley said ‘many’ patients are still waiting for organs in Scotland.

‘There has been welcome progress in the number of people signing up to the Organ Donor Register and donation rates, but despite this rise, there are still many people in Scotland waiting for an organ transplant,’ he said.

‘Some of these people will die while they are waiting, while others will have died without even reaching the waiting list. We believe that more can be done and more lives can be saved.

‘The BMA believes that a change to an opt-out system for organ donation would help to increase the number of organs available. 

‘This would make donation the default position from which people may opt out during their lifetime if they choose to do so. Given the exceptionally high level of support for donation, this is simply making it easier for people to achieve their wish to donate.’

Approximately 7,000 people are on the waiting list for a transplant in the UK and 1,300 people a year die on the list.

Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA ethics committee said: ‘Since 2008 we have seen an increase in donations by 50% but more must be done in order to meet the shortages in donated organs across the UK.’

He said that a ‘transformation’ in public attitudes was necessary so that donation becomes a ‘natural and expected event’.

‘The BMA believes the best way to achieve this is through the introduction of an opt-out system for organ donation, similar to that planned for Wales from 2015,’ he said.

The proposed Welsh system will mean close relatives of the deceased will still be given a say despite assumed consent. Consent will only be assumed for those over 18 and those who have lived in Wales for over 12 months.

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