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Organ argument fails to persuade

Tom Feilden | 09:01 UK time, Monday, 17 November 2008

Last year 482 people, many of them children, died while waiting for a transplant. Almost as many died after being removed from waiting lists when it was judged they had become too ill to survive a transplant operation.

The simple fact is that Britain has one of the worst organ donation rates in Europe.

While polls show that between 65 and 90 percent of people support the idea of organ donation, only a quarter of adult's names appear on the Organ Donor Register. A mis-match that means the overall number of people on transplant waiting lists - currently more than 8,000 - is rising by 8 percent every year

That's why the Organ Donation Taskforce was set up in January - to look at ways of improving the number of organs available for transplant.

At the time both the Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, appeared to pre-judge the issue - suggesting that thousands of lives could be saved if we switched to a system of presumed consent. A system that saw everyone who did not specifically opt out added to the register of organ donors. Announcing the move Gordon Brown talked about the "aching gap" between the demand for organs and their supply.

But it seems the Organ Donation Taskforce doesn't agree.

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In a report to be published later today the Taskforce will reject presumed consent, arguing that a shortage of intensive care staff, transplant co-ordinators, and a lack of funding are the biggest obstacles to improving organ donation rates. Doctors too have raised concerns that a change could undermine people's confidence in the system, and erode the trust between intensive care staff and a patient's relatives.

If the government is worried about the rates for organ donation it seems, persuasion is better than presumption.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am happy with the Organ Donation Taskforce's suggestions. They make more sense and most likely will adress the problem more comprehensively than a assumed consent attitude. Also it seems that it won't cost us billions of pounds to implement.

    I find it very unsual that England which is amongst the best countries in providing financial and medical support to a number of international emergencies does not provide the same amount of support for such an important internal emergency.


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