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Scotland introduces ‘opt-out’ organ donation scheme, England could follow

'Teddy's story': the the Cardiff newborn who became the UK's youngest ever organ donor, and whose short life inspired thousands of others to register as organ donors ahead of the new law. Photo © ITV.

‘Teddy’s story’: the Cardiff newborn who became the UK’s youngest ever organ donor, and whose short life inspired thousands of others to register as organ donors ahead of the new law. Photo © ITV.

Scottish ministers have announced plans to introduce a ‘soft opt-out’ system for organ donation. Once implemented, the scheme will mean that unless a patient has actively opted-out before their death, it is presumed that they have given consent for donation. Humanists UK has long supported a change in policy on organ donation, as it is an important way to save lives by reducing the time people are left waiting on transplant lists.

Today it has further been revealed that England may soon follow Scotland’s lead, as Downing Street announced they would consider a change of policy. A spokesperson at No. 10 said they will be keeping a close eye on continuing developments in Scotland. The current opt-in system in England means that people have to actively sign up to the organ donation register. Support for an opt-out system in England has previously been given by The British Medical Association who explained that although 66% of people say they would donate their organs, only 39% of people have signed the register.

If adopted, England would also join Wales, which moved to a soft opt-out system in December 2015 after a successful campaign supported by Humanists UK. Humanists UK gave oral evidence to the Welsh Government when it was considering the matter. Six months after the introduction of the new rules, the Welsh government announced that of the 60 organs transplanted since the change in the rules, half had come from people who had given ‘presumed consent’, meaning many lives have been saved by the change.

The Northern Irish Government has also suggested it may support a similar system, although a private member’s bill on the changes was rejected in 2016.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Scotland has taken an important step to tackle the major issue of transplant waiting times and organ shortages. We hope that England and Northern Ireland are quick to follow. Developments in Wales since our campaign shows the immediate positive impact an opt-out system can have. Humanists UK also support campaigns to encourage the public to discuss their wishes for the end of life, including organ donation, in advance.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 0781 55 89 636.

You can join the Organ Donor Register and help save lives after your death at https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

Read more about our campaigns work on organ donation: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk

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