Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

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Presumed Consent

Posted by Oli on Monday 17th November, 2008

So obviously I’m hugely behind again, something I will try to rectify if I get half a chance at some point today – how likely that is I have no idea.

But I thought it important to jump on here to respond to the Organ Donor Task Force report on Presumed Consent (otherwise known as Opt-Out), which was published this morning and has concluded, after over 2 years of research, that it cannot reccommend Opt-Out at the current time.

There are all sorts of arguments for an against presumed consent and I don’t think it is possible to argue that it would undoubtedly increase the number of potential donors in this country were it introduced.  The key part of that sentence, however, is “potential donors” – unfortunately at the current time, the NHS cannot cope with any increases in the donor population without serious investment.  They are already running pretty close to capacity and without increased spending on intensive care beds, transplant coordinators, transplant surgery teams and all the other elements that need to be improved in the transplant network then it won’t actually see any rise in the number of transplants performed.

The good news is that as of last January, when the Organ Donor Task Force report into the transplant system as a whole was published, there is a nation-wide investment of £11million going into improve all of those things I’ve listed above, including a £4.5million public awareness campaign.

The key element of the presumed consent is that the family would have the right to over-ride the decisions made by the medical team if they believed that it was against the interest of their loved one, which could lead to donation being refused simply because the family did not know their loved ones wishes.  Opting in to organ donation is not only seen as a vital part of the “gift” of life by many recipients, it’s also the only way you can know for certain that a person wishes to donate.

The current chasm between the number of people who say they would donate their organs (90% of the UK) and those signed up to the organ donor register (25%) indicates just how powerful apathy can be.  If people prove equally apathetic about discussing and deciding their wishes under a system of presumed consent, it will lead to many more transplants being refused and more people dying on the waiting lists.

Yes, presumed consent can increase the pool of possible donors, but until we’ve sorted the infrastructure out first, there’s no point in causing the inevitable national outrage that would come with presumed consent.  Remember it’s always those who are least happy who shout the loudest.  Instead, let’s focus on getting as many people as we can signed up while the Government focuses on improving the service.  After all, if we can get 70% of the population signed up to the register, there’d be no need for a presumed consent law any more.


One Response to “Presumed Consent”

  1. Pauline said

    Well said Oli! I think you’ve summed it up really well. At least the report has got everyone talking.
    Keep up the good work.

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