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England considers opt-out plan for organ transplants

Staff Writer |
A consultation started on a proposal to change human organ transplant rules in England.

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It follows a report showing 6,500 people are currently waiting for transplant operations, with three people dying every day while waiting for a new organ.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged people to talk about organ donation as part of a government drive to give people a say on a new opt-out system to help save more lives.

Under proposed changes people would have to opt out if they did not want any of their organs used in transplant procedures. Currently people have to opt-in as potential organ donors. If the change goes ahead it would shift the balance of presumption in favor of organ donation.

Around 80 percent of people say they would be willing to donate their organs, but only 36 percent register to become organ donors.

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that in the past year around 1,100 families in Britain decided not to allow organ donation because they did not know whether their relatives would have wanted it.

Over the next three months, the government is asking for comments on the defining questions of the new system.

Secretary Hunt said: "We want as many people as possible to have their say as we shape the new opt-out process. As well as changing the law, we also need to change the conversation. Only about half of adults on the current organ register say they have discussed their wishes with a relative."

Simon Gillespie, CEO of the British Heart Foundation, said: "The government's commitment to an opt-out system is a commitment to ending the pain felt by families who risk losing a loved one while they wait for an organ.

"There is a desperate shortage of organ donors in the UK, but around 8 in 10 of us say we do want to donate our organs."

Wales has already adopted an approach of presumed consent, while Scotland plans to introduce a similar scheme. Northern Ireland has also expressed an interest in introducing an opt-out system.

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