Last updated:

Doctors’ leaders call for opt-out system for organ donation

Doctors’ leaders have today called for an opt-out system to be put in place for organ donation.

Voting today at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Annual Representative Meeting, a motion was passed which urged doctors to lobby the Governments in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to implement an opt-out system similar to the one put in place in Wales in 2015.

The BMA has long advocated an opt-out system with safeguards for organ donation and continues to believe this is the best option for the UK to reduce the shortage of organs. Currently the UK has an opt-in organ donation system where a person has to register their consent to donate their organs in the event of their death.

Under an opt-out system there would be a presumption in favour of consent for organ donation unless a person had registered an objection in advance. If an objection had not been registered, family members would still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection, as an extra safeguard, before any procedures went ahead.

Dr John Chisholm, chair of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said:

“Organ transplantation is an area that has seen amazing medical achievements but has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential, so I’m pleased to see this motion pass today. The BMA has long believed that an opt-out system, as part of an overall package of measures to increase donation, would increase rates even further and save more lives.  Indeed, the BMA has been lobbying for this change throughout the UK since 1999 and will continue to do so.

“As a doctor it is difficult to see your patients dying and suffering when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant. It is even more difficult when we know that lives are being lost unnecessarily because of poor organisation, lack of funding or because people who are willing to donate organs after their death simply never get around to making their views known, resulting in relatives making a decision without knowing whether the individual was willing to donate.

“Under an opt-out system there would be a presumption in favour of consent for organ donation unless a person had registered an objection in advance. If an objection had not been registered, family members would still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection, as an extra safeguard, before any procedures went ahead.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. We are an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.