Organ donations reach record high – under current ‘opt-in’ system

More people than ever before donated organs in the UK last year, new figures have revealed.

The news comes as debate continues on a new ‘opt-out’ system which critics say undermines the altruistic aspect of donation.

NHS statistics showed over 1,500 people voluntarily gave their organs in 2017-18, an 11 per cent increase on the previous year.

Families crucial

NHS Blood and Transplant thanked families for their crucial role in the process.

And they said specialist nurses and doctors had worked to reduce “missed referral opportunities” by 28 per cent.

“These are figures that would make any country in the world proud”, the organisation’s Sally Johnson said, before adding that more donors are still needed.

Pressure

Currently in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland an ‘opt-in’ system exists but there is pressure to switch to an ‘opt-out’ model, which supporters claim increases donations.

Wales has already introduced such a presumed consent scheme, but there is no evidence it is having a positive effect on donations.

In February, NHS experts warned ‘opt-out’ organ donation will not necessarily result in more donors.

‘Undermine trust’

And later in the same month The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said there is good evidence that a range of other factors – such as encouraging family discussion – do increase the rate of donation.

Its Director warned, “we are concerned that making a legislative change based on poor evidence risks undermining public trust in the organ donation system, and could have serious consequences for rates of organ donation”.

Roman Catholic bishop Paul Mason has said plans for an opt-out system “undermine the concept of donation as a gift, and cross the line of what is a reasonable action for the state to take in relation to the individuals within it”.

Thousands respond

In Scotland the Government has said it will bring forward legislation to introduce an opt-out scheme, while the Westminster Government is supporting a backbencher’s Bill on the issue.

Results of a consultation on the idea in England, which drew thousands of responses, have not yet been released.