Following warnings from the British Heart Foundation over the serious lack of organ donors, a government consultation is due to be launched in order to introduce an “opt out” organ donation model. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has blamed “fatal reluctance” to start discussions about donation for the growing number of deaths related to the lack of donors.

Waiting lists for transplants have almost tripled in the last ten years, and despite increases in the number of people saying they’d be willing to donate organs, only a third are actually registered on the database. The consultation will look at the idea of an opt-out system instead, as well as how much say families of the deceased should have in the decision.

Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation Simon Gillespie said “The Government’s commitment to an opt-out system is a commitment to ending the agonising pain felt by families who risk losing a loved one while they wait for an organ.”

According to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt “Every day, three people die for want of a transplant, which is why our historic plans to transform the way organ donation works are so important. We want as many people as possible to have their say as we shape the new opt-out process.”

“But as well as changing the law, we also need to change the conversation – it can be a difficult subject to broach, but overcoming this fatal reluctance to talk openly about our wishes is key to saving many more lives in the future.”

Health professionals are still uncertain as to the effect it would have on the number of donations. Under current legislation, families are allowed to stop donations and can choose not to provide medical details which are required for transplants. Under a new opt out system, like the one in Wales, it’s thought that families would still be able to block donations.

Chief executive of Afro-Caribbean Leukemia Trust and co-chair of the National BAME Transplant Alliance Orin Lewis said he expected the consultation to be “heated but ultimately constructive”. He added that “As a parent of a young man who sadly passed away from Multiple Organ Failure, I gladly welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to instigate a much needed public consultation on the relative positive and negative merits of England having an Opt Out Donation policy.

There have been some doubts among ethics group, some of which are opposed to the move, and others are questioning how effective it will be. It’s thought that it should be proven that the system works first before it’s rolled out nationally.

GETTYMr Hugh Whittall, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said: “We are concerned that the Government consultation goes straight into asking how an opt-out system should be introduced, rather than if it should. The Government should not be making this change until there is evidence that it works, and until we are confident that it won’t undermine people’s trust in the system in the long-term.”

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