In October 2017, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to change the law on organ donation in England by introducing the principle of “opt-out consent”, in a bid to save the lives of the 6,500 people currently waiting for an organ transplant.
Today the Government has launched a consultation to begin an open conversation about this change to opt-out organ donation, including how to encourage more conversations about personal decisions and what role families should have when their relative has consented to donate.
Currently, 80 percent of people say they would be willing to donate their organs but only 36 percent register to become an organ donor. Three people die every day in need of a suitable organ. Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that around 1100 families in the UK decided not to allow organ donation because they were unsure, or did not know whether their relatives would have wanted to donate an organ or not. The Government’s intention is that changing the system to an opt-out model of consent will mean more viable organs become available for use in the NHS, potentially saving thousands of lives.
The consultation is open for the next three months, providing an opportunity for as many people as possible in England to give their views, including people from religious groups, patient groups, the clinical transplant community, and black, Asian and other minority communities.
It is important to ensure that moving to an opt-out system of consent will honour a person’s decision on what happens to their body after death, and the consultation seeks views on how we can make sure this is the case.
The consultation also seeks views on a number of related issues, including ways in which it can be made easier for people to register their decision on organ and tissue donation. The consultation invites views on the potential impact proposals could have on certain groups who have protected characteristics in law such as disability, race, religion or belief. Questions are asked to help determine how family members should be involved in confirming decisions in future. The Government also proposes a number of exclusions and safeguards to the general rule of consent under the proposed new system. This includes the position of children, people with limited mental capacity, the armed forces and temporary residents.
The consultation is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/introducing-opt-out-consent-for-organ-and-tissue-donation-in-england . An Impact Assessment has been published alongside the consultation and can be accessed in the same place as the link above on gov.uk and is also attached.
The outcome of the consultation will inform the Government’s next steps and its proposals for legislation to bring the new system of consent into effect.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: