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New organ donation proposals poised to limit family involvement

Family members could have limited say over loved ones organ donation choices, new proposals suggests

Family members could no longer have a say over whether their loved-ones donate their organs on death as part of new opt-out proposals.

An ongoing consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care on a potential shake-up of the service in England has created the potential for the deceased to make the decision alone.

At the moment, the default position is for organs not to be donated unless the patient opts in.

In any case, medics must seek approval from the deceased person's family before pressing ahead with an organ transfer.

Presumed consent

But the consultation paves the way for consent to be presumed even though there is a lack of proof the measure will drive up donation rates with an option for that permission to be made by the patient without familial input.

NHS

Family members could no longer have a say over whether their loved-ones donate their organs on death as part of new opt-out proposals.


Picture: iStock

An ongoing consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care on a potential shake-up of the service in England has created the potential for the deceased to make the decision alone.

At the moment, the default position is for organs not to be donated unless the patient opts in.

In any case, medics must seek approval from the deceased person's family before pressing ahead with an organ transfer.

Presumed consent

But the consultation paves the way for consent to be presumed – even though there is a lack of proof the measure will drive up donation rates – with an option for that permission to be made by the patient without familial input.

NHS Blood and Transplant head of transplant development Claire Williment said the family consent role was in the consultation paper, which was already attracted thousands of responses.

'Whether or not it will happen, and what comes out if everybody [responding to the consultation] says the family should never have any role in consent is down to the Department of Health and Social Care, which goes into the law.

'But it's an option.'

'Out of the blue'

Consultant transplant surgeon at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust Keith Rigg said the consultation announcement from Theresa May in October last year came 'out of the blue'. He said it might have been better to wait for results from a similar opt-out scheme launched in Wales in 2015.

Latest figures show there were 33 cases in Wales where deemed consent was applied last year, and in 13 of the 33 cases the families did not support the decision to donate an organ.

It indicates a higher (60%) donation rate with presumed consent in Wales than the opt-in model in England (just under 50%), although the number of cases is small.

The RCN recently closed a consultation into a review of its position of an opt-in system for organ donation, and will be considering the responses.

The Department of Health and Social Care consultation has already received 11,000 responses so far compared with approximately 300 responses to previous consultations. It closes on 6 March.

Respond to the Department of Health and Social Care consultation on organ donation


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