Policy of presumed consent for organ donations needed

Only a policy of presumed consent for organ donations will substantially increase the number of organs available for transplantation, according to experts.

A policy of presumed consent for organ donations is needed (Photograph: SPL)
A policy of presumed consent for organ donations is needed (Photograph: SPL)

Writing in this week's BMJ, Sheila Bird, from the MRC Biostatics Unit in Cambridge, and John Harris, from the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation in Manchester, argue that the opposition to presumed consent by the government's Organ Donor Taskforce is flawed.

They say: ‘The taskforce did not consider all the relevant evidence, particularly on relatives' refusal rates, and that the current policy, however reinforced, will not substantially increase the number of organs available.'

They add that the taskforce misreported its assessment team's findings by referring to ‘apparent correlation' between presumed consent and donation rates.

They add it failed to measure the additional number of kidney, pancreatic, liver, heart and thoracic transplantations that there could have been in the past 10 years from donations after brain stem death.

They conclude: ‘Presumed consent, even allowing for over-rule by relatives, should ultimately cut costs, add life, and save bereaved families from anxious, as well as generous, deliberation in extremis.'

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