Survey reveals support for a ‘soft’ opt-out organ donation system

Survey reveals support for a 'soft' opt-out organ donation system. Pic: Rob McDougall.

Survey reveals support for a 'soft' opt-out organ donation system. Pic: Rob McDougall.

Two thirds of people support a ‘soft’ opt-out organ donation system, a new survey has revealed.

A new survey by the British Medical Association has found that two thirds of people across the UK (65 per cent) support a ‘soft’ opt-out organ donation system.

The survey, which questioned 2011 members of the public, also found that while two out of three people (66 per cent) want to donate their organs at death only a third (39 per cent) are signed up to the organ donation register.

Currently England, Northern Ireland and Scotland have an opt-in organ donation system where a person has to register their consent to donate their organs in the event of their death. The Scottish Government is currently consulting on how a soft opt out system might work in Scotland.

Under an opt-out system, which has already been introduced in Wales, there would be a presumption in favour of consent for organ donation unless a person had registered an objection in advance. Since soft opt-out was adopted in Wales, 160 organs have been transplanted, almost a quarter of which were down to the new system.

If an objection had not been registered, family members would still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection, as an extra safeguard, before any procedures went ahead.

The BMA has long advocated a ‘soft’ opt-out system with safeguards for organ donation and continues to believe that introducing such a system, as part of a package of measures to boost organ donation, can help to save lives.

Dr Sue Robertson, BMA Scottish Council member and a renal doctor, said: “Although organ transplantation has seen amazing medical achievements it has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential.

“These figures show that in the current system, a large number of people who wish to donate their organs are not signing up to the register. Vital opportunities to save people’s lives are being missed.

“In Scotland, 532 people are currently on the transplant waiting list, some of whom will die while they are waiting, whilst others will die without even reaching the waiting list. As a doctor it is difficult to see your patients suffering when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant.

“The findings of this poll are an important confirmation that an opt-out system would be supported by the public, and we will be drawing the Scottish Government’s attention to this data in our response to its current consultation on organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

“As the Scottish Government is considering moving to an opt-out system it has the opportunity to transform the lives of people waiting for transplants and it is vital that this opportunity is not missed.”