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BMA renews call for 'opt-out' donor system

People on the organ transplant list will still “die unnecessarily” even if the number of donors is increased by 50%, it is warned.

A report by the British Medical Association's (BMA) Medical Ethics Committee “Building on Progress: Where next for organ donation policy in the UK?” calls for a fresh public debate to consider what should be done to increase the number of organ donors in the UK.

The BMA “remains convinced” an 'opt-out' system or 'presumed consent' would be the “best way forward” and the most likely to make a difference in terms of donation rates. 

“Extensive” publicity around the system change would provide the necessary safeguards, the BMA claims.

The push to 'opt-out' comes as it is claimed the Organ Donation Taskforce's target to increase the number of organ donors in the UK by 50% by 2013 will not stop people on the transplant list from “dying needlessly”.

“We are at a crossroads in terms of public policy,” said Dr Tony Calland, Chairman of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee.

“As a society we need to decide whether we should accept that we have done all we can or whether we should move forward, cautiously, and look at other options for increasing the number of donors. 

"There needs to be a public debate on what will work for the UK so that people on the transplant list do not die waiting for a donor.”

The BMA claims experts from the University of York, who reviewed the research on behalf of the Organ Donation Taskforce, also concluded “the available evidence suggests that [opt-out] legislation is associated with an increase in organ donation rates.”

Question: Do you agree that an 'opt-out' donor system is the "best way forward"?