latest health care news

23.06.16

BMA to lobby for opt-out organ donation in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland

The rules on organ donation should be changed across the UK to introduce a ‘soft opt-out’ system where people who die are deemed to have given consent for their organs to be donated unless they state otherwise, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.

The system has been in operation in Wales from December last year, applying to people over 18 who die in the country after having lived there for more than eight months, and led to six additional organ donors in the two months after it was introduced.

The BMA voted in favour of introducing similar rules in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at its annual conference.

Dr John Chisholm, chair of the BMA medical ethics committee, welcomed the decision, saying: “The BMA has long believed that an opt-out system, as part of an overall package of measures to increase donation, would increase rates even further and save more lives.”

The BMA has supported opt-out organ donation since 1999, but Dr Sarah Mills, a trainee GP from Fife who spoke in favour of the motion, said more should be done to introduce it across the UK.

Referring to the industrial dispute over junior doctors’ pay and working hours, she said: “This year the BMA has showed us that it can affect change at the very heart of government and I am asking you for that because in the last 17 years we haven’t done enough.”

After a series of strikes, the BMA agreed on a new junior doctors’ contract with the government, which doctors are now voting on.

Dr Mills said that more organs were urgently needed, pointing out that 1,000 people a year die waiting for an organ and one in seven people have their wish to donate organs blocked by their family.

Another BMA member, Hannah Barham-Brown, spoke against the motion, saying: “I think there are many things we can do before we get to that stage.”

She said that whether or not an opt-out system was introduced, doctors should also lobby for “better funding, better support, better education and more research”.

A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “We welcome activity that encourages people to discuss organ donation and to donate their organs for transplant. Our role is to work within whatever legislative frameworks are in place across the UK.”

The BMA also voted yesterday to lobby employers to adopt a special charter for specialist and associate specialist (SAS) doctors.

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