RCN backs opt out organ donation, following survey results

The RCN is now backing an opt-out system for organ and tissue donation following a survey of members across the UK

The RCN is now backing an opt-out system for organ and tissue donation following a survey of members across the UK

Picture: PA Wire

The college had supported an opt-in system since 2009, but decided to poll its members following a number of government moves towards a presumed consent approach.

Shift in system

In October, prime minister Theresa May announced that England would shift towards a system of presumed consent for organ and tissue donation after a person's death.

The RCN survey of 7,700 members, which took place earlier this year, found that 71% supported a move to the opt-out system. This has led the college's professional nursing committee to decide to change its position.

But the RCN said that steps must be taken to ensure the system works properly and governments should increase investment in specialist nurses who work in the field.

It said that a move to such a system should come with resourcing, evaluation and clear conditions attached to how it operates – including limiting the opt out to adults, putting in place awareness and education programmes in advance of any changes and engaging with families in the process.

The survey also found that only 10% of nursing staff believe their patients have given much thought to donating organs and tissues after death.

Additionally, 89% of RCN members believe that not enough people donate their organs and tissue.

'Time to reopen debate'

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'When people still die because suitable organ donors cannot be found, nursing staff agreed it was time to reopen the debate.

'Our members from across the UK have given overwhelming support for opting out to give countless people awaiting transplants a fighting chance, as long as clear conditions are applied.

'Where individuals feel strongly, they must be supported in opting out. Where governments pursue an opt out anywhere in the UK, we will ensure our members' views are heard and will call for the system to be communicated clearly with the public and health professionals.'

Death toll

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that nearly 500 people died last year while on the waiting list, or being taken off the list after becoming too unwell for transplant.

An opt-out system has been operating in Wales since December 2015, and in June last year the Scottish Government announced plans to move to a soft opt-out system.

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