Let’s talk about it…..let’s not assume

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Cathy Miller, Head of Education and Professional Development, NHS Blood and Transplant, considers the Government’s consultation on an ‘opt-out’ system of consent for organ donation, and why discussing your wish to donate can save lives.

Around 1000 people die each year across the UK in need of a transplant

But more than 6500 people are currently waiting for a transplant


These figures are despite widespread public support for organ donation, with around 80% of people saying that ‘in principle’ they support organ donation. There’s no denying that there is a shortage of organ donors across the UK.

The current ‘opt in’ system in England means anyone wishing to donate their organs has to:

·       Opt in via the NHS Organ Donor Register

·       Have a Donor Card

·       Family member agreement for organ donation

The Government’s consultation on the organ ‘opt-out’ system outlines ways to improve organ donation rates and proposes a new approach; where every person would be ‘deemed’ to have given consent unless they have chosen to ‘opt out’.

The consultation will broadly seek views on:

  • How much say families have in their deceased relative’s decision to donate their organs
  • When exemptions to ‘opt-out’ would be needed, and what safeguards would be necessary
  • How a new system might affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith

Although registering a decision to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register is a valid and legal decision, in practice, if the donor’s family feel that they cannot support organ donation, despite all their questions and concerns being answered, donation will not go ahead. Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation are trained professionals, skilled in communication and sensitive conversations and support anyone in reaching a lasting decision that is in line with particular family members values and beliefs.

The ‘opt-out’ system will inspire discussion about donation and supports a culture of expressing and sharing views with your family and friends. Making your preference known, makes it that little easier, for your family in their darkest hour. Evidence shows this act is likely to save lives.

 So whether or not you decide to join the Organ Donor Register, don’t presume they know; telling people important to you about your preferred decision for organ donation, will be an increasing important step to help save lives.

 (1) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-consultation-on-organ-donation-opt-out-system 

 It’s simple to join the Organ Donor Register.