"In October 2017 the Prime Minister announced at the Conservative Party Conference that they were looking at changing the law on organ donation in England and that they planned to hold a consultation. This took place between December 2017 and March 2018, with 17,000 people taking part. On 5th August 2018 the government announced how it intends to take this forward .
At Kidney Care UK, we had been campaigning for such a consultation for a long time and welcome the intention to move to a system where it is presumed that a person wishes to be a donor unless they have said they don’t. After all, despite progress in transplantation, patients continue to die waiting for an organ and while more can be done to prevent unnecessary deaths it is imperative to seek more ways to do so. 8 out of 10 of those on the transplant waiting list are hoping for a kidney. The impact of kidney failure is stark, with 29,000 people on dialysis but 1 in 7 dying every year. It is emotionally and physically harmful. Dialysis gives about 10% of normal kidney function, and that’s a heavy burden with restrictions on fluid consumption (500 ml a day) and side effects like itching, poor mobility, exhaustion and depression. It is also very difficult for the rest of the family.
However, “Without the organ donor there is no story, no hope, no transplant” (UNOS ) Changing the law does not change the importance of people talking to their families about their wishes for organ donation as they will still be asked for information about you and to support your donation. Families will retain the right to override a donation, but changing the default to becoming a donor has been shown to increase donation rates, when accompanied by the right education. Patients who have received a transplanted organ are able to live a transformed life and have the greatest of respect for their donors.
Changing the law
Evidence from other European countries, including Spain and Croatia, indicates that on balance presumed consent does tend to increase organ donation . This is likely to have been achieved by a continuous and sensitive focus to working with families, appropriately trained staff and adequate system capacity and a culture which sees organ donation as natural.
While presumed consent is, we believe, the right thing to do, it is not the only thing to do. It must, as in countries where there are greater levels of organ donation, be accompanied by a continuous public education programme, included in the education system, and supported by adequate capacity - surgeons and operating theatres so that the extra transplant surgeries can take place. Transplant surgery does not exist in a bubble, away from the NHS, so we look to government to ensure there is appropriate support for this surgery for both donors and recipients.
In summary, under the new system you would be a donor unless you say that you don’t want to donate. It remains your decision, and you can change your choices on the NHS Organ Donor Register at any time. Whichever system we have it is really important is that everyone makes their decision clear.
We welcome the proposed change, which brings hope to many."
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