Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 11:47 UK

Medics mull organ donor options

An operation
Physicians will debate whether 'presumed consent' is the only option

Doctors from across Scotland are meeting to consider options for tackling the problem of a shortage of organ donors.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh will consider whether moving to a system of presumed consent is the best option for boosting donors.

The UK currently has one of the lowest organ donor rates in Europe.

Opening conference, Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon urged donors to tell relatives when they join the register.

She has previously said that she is "sympathetic" towards presumed consent.

Addressing the meeting, Ms Sturgeon said: "The evidence shows that where relatives know their loved one wanted to donate, they will usually consider it their duty to make sure those wishes are fulfilled.

"The key, therefore, is for people who want to donate their organs after death to tell their loved ones what their wishes are.

"Relative refusal rates at the moment are over 40%. Whichever system we adopt in future, reducing that refusal rate is going to be one of the key factors".

Other options

Figures from the RCPE suggest that while 90% of the population supports organ donation in principle, only a quarter of the population has joined the NHS organ donor register.

About 1,000 people die each year waiting for appropriate organs to become available.

A system of presumed consent would allow suitable organs to be collected from deceased patients unless they have specifically opted-out.

Experts from the main transplant specialties - heart, liver and renal - will debate the arguments for and against the introduction while considering other possible solutions.

Options include increasing the number of organ donor transplant co-ordinators and strengthening the network of organ retrieval teams so they can have 24-hour ready access to acute medical units.

Dr Stuart Rodger, of the RCPE, said: "Scotland is facing a major crisis in terms of a shortfall of suitable organ donors. We are reaching a point where Scotland will have to take a political decision as to how it wishes to address this shortfall.

"One option which has been advocated is that of presumed consent, but it is unclear how controversial and unpopular this would be with both the public and medical staff in practice.

"While much attention has focused on presumed consent, it is not the only option open to us as we seek to tackle the crisis. By convening this meeting today the RCPE hopes to inform future political decision-making in Scotland and to raise further awareness of the increasing shortfall in organ donors and how the public can play their part by signing up to the organ donor register".

Organ donor numbers 'must rise'
05 Mar 08 |  Scotland
Effort to increase organ donation
16 Jan 08 |  Scotland
'Sympathy' for organ donor change
13 Jan 08 |  Scotland
MSPs reject organ donor opt-out
02 Feb 06 |  Scotland

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