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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Public supports change in donor law
Organ delivery
Transplant organs are in short supply
More than half of the population would support a change in the law on how human organs can be obtained for transplant, according to a survey.

Some 57% said they would back the concept of "presumed consent" as a way of increasing the number of organs available for transplant.

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

It would get around the existing system whereby an individual needs to carry a donor card or be registered with the NHS as a potential donor before their organs can be used.

It is encouraging to see that public opinion is changing

Dr Michael Wilks, British Medical Association

The survey, carried out on behalf of the National Kidney Research Fund, found that most people are aware that their is a shortage of donor organs in the UK.

However, just one in three have donor cards. Many said they would not object to donating their organs but have not got around to registering.

The survey also revealed that only 58% of those who have donor cards carry them with them at all times.

Half of those questioned said they did not know that close relatives can refuse permission to take organs even it the person who died had a donor card.


Professor David Kerr said public support for a change in the law to allow presumed consent was encouraging.

"We are strongly committed to encouraging serious debate over the pressing need for transplant organs including the issue of presumed consent for donors, which would be one way of increasing the supply of donors.

"It is encouraging that more than half of the population is in favour of new legislation which would help over 5,000 people in the UK desperately awaiting kidneys for transplantation.

Donor card
One in three people have a donor card
Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the British Medical Association's medical ethics committee, added: "It is encouraging to see that public opinion is changing and that the need to develop new ways of increasing the number of organ donors is recognised.

"There is a wide and increasing gap between the number of people needing an organ transplant and the number of organs available for donation.

"People are still dying whilst waiting for a donated organ and an urgent review of the organ donation system is desperately needed."

Dr Wilks said a move to "presumed consent" could not take place until it was supported by the public.

"The BMA supports presumed consent as one part of a broader strategy for increasing the number of organ donors.

"We would not wish to see such a change however, until fully supported by the public."

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See also:

18 Oct 00 | Health
Organ donation by email
13 Jun 00 | Health
Doctors call for organ reform
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