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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Doctors call for organ reform
Organ box
There is a shortage of donor organs
Doctors leaders are to call on the public to back their proposals for tackling the serious shortage of donor organs available for transplant.

The plan for a system of presumed consent is one of a raft of measures put forward to increase the number of organs made available to save lives.

The presumed consent system would allow doctors to assume that a patient's organs can be used for transplant unless they or their relatives have stipulated otherwise.

At present, permission must be obtained before organs can be removed for transplant.

The BMA believes a switch to presumed consent would greatly increase the number of donor organs available, but ministers have dismissed the proposal out of hand.

The BMA has joined forces with the Patients' Association, three kidney charities, the surgical Royal Colleges and the Intensive Care Society to launch its new campaign.

Dr Michael Wilks
Dr Michael Wilks: "Presumed consent would increase number of available organs"

This is despite the fact that some of the organisations involved have reservations about a change to a system of presumed consent.

During the past 10 years the gap between the number of people needing an organ transplant and the number of organs available has been increasing.

Between 1995 and 1999, 1,000 patients died in the UK while waiting for a heart, heart and lung, lung or liver transplants, according to a report published by the BMA to coincide with the launch of the campaign.

Many patients die

The report says many more patients die before even getting on a waiting list and others die because of insufficient dialysis machines around the country.

Proposals put forward in the report today include calls for the introduction of one law covering all aspects of organ donation, rather than the hotchpotch legislation currently on the statute books.

BMA proposals for reform
Comprehensive legislation covering all aspects of organ donation
A National Transplant Service
An expanded network of organ donor co-ordinators
Development of consultant led multi-organ retrieval teams
A round-the-clock telephone helpline

The BMA also wants to see the network of co-ordinators, who match donors with patients, to be expanded, and the development of "multi-organ retrieval teams" led by consultants, to increase the number of donations.

The BMA document also says that "if public opinion moves in favour", a system of presumed consent should be introduced.

Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's medical ethics committee, said: "Presumed consent is only one part of the jigsaw.

"If public opinion moves towards a change in the law, I think it could be a valuable contribution to increasing the number of organs available, but there are so many aspects of the transplantation system that need improving and boosting that a radical review of the whole organ donation system seems the logical next step and one around which we can all unite."

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See also:

03 Apr 00 | Health
Nurses reject organ reform
22 Feb 00 | Health
New rules on organ donation
14 Dec 99 | Health
Commons call for organ shake-up
16 Jul 99 | Health
Organ donor reform rejected
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