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Sunday, 17 March, 2002, 18:36 GMT
Plan to overhaul organ consent
The bill is aimed at boosting the number of transplant organs
The plan may increase the number of transplants
A radical plan to encourage more bereaved relatives to allow the donation of organs is being put before Parliament.

An MP is calling for people to be told that unless they wish otherwise, vital organs will be taken from loved ones after their deaths.

At present doctors are forced to coax permission from distressed relatives.

Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, believes his "presumed consent" plan will boost the number of organs available for life-saving transplant operations.

Under his bill, everyone over the age of 16 would be a potential donor.

Relatives would be told that organ donation was the norm and asked if they had any objections.

Labour MP Tom Watson, West Bromwich East
Tom Watson is claiming cross-party support

Mr Watson believes the plan would represent a change from an "opt-in" to an "opt-out" system of organ donation.

He said: "We want to give the clear message that if someone doesn't want to donate organs they won't be under pressure to do so.

"But at a time of maximum grief we don't want to overload a close loved one with this kind of decision."

The bill goes before the Commons on Wednesday, and has a strong measure of cross-party support.

Its sponsors include former Conservative Health Secretary Kenneth Clarke and Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Evan Harris.

Save lives

More than 150 MPs have said they will back the bill.

Mr Watson said: "A change in the law on organ donation could save hundreds of lives every year.

"In the last five years, more than 1,000 people have died while on the waiting list for an organ transplant."

The bill has the backing of the British Medical Association.

Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's Ethics Committee, said: "Organ transplantation has saved thousands of lives and for kidney transplant recipients has put an end to the tremendous burden of dialysis.

"We believe that the introduction of a system of presumed consent for organ donation, with safeguards, will increase the number of donors available so the BMA fully supports Tom Watson's efforts to promote debate on this issue."

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See also:

27 Feb 01 | Health
Drive for new organ donors
14 Feb 01 | Health
Doctors call for new donor rules
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