Top doc: ‘Presumed consent law no use’

Presumed consent is wrong and counterproductive, an NHS psychiatrist and newspaper columnist has said.

Max Pemberton feels “deeply uneasy” about Government plans to introduce an ‘opt-out’ system.

Under the plans, people would be automatically entered onto the organ donation register and have to manually opt-out if they do not want their organs to be harvested.

State overreach

The state could also be handed powers to overturn the wishes of relatives. Writing for the Daily Mail, Dr Pemberton said:

“It makes me feel deeply uneasy that the Government feels at liberty to presume what I would want done with my body and that the wishes of families could be over-ridden.”

“But perhaps most importantly, there’s no good evidence that the policy works. Since Wales adopted an opt-out system two years ago, there has been no increase in donations.”

Dr Pemberton stressed that organ donation should be a gift, but said presumed consent makes this impossible: “It’s no longer a powerful and generous gift that brings families together, but an assumption by the State that it can do what it wants with your body.”

No evidence it works

The opt-out approach was introduced in Wales two years ago, but a recent study shows that the donation rate has actually fallen since the change.

The research prompted Professor John Fabre, former President of the British Transplantation Society, to urge against England adopting a similar law.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 last week, Prof Fabre said it could be predicted “with a high level of certainty that it is not going to increase donor numbers in the way that we all want”.

Spanish approach

Before implementing an opt-out system, Fabre said it is important to ask: “Does it actually make a difference?” He concluded: “It actually doesn’t”.

The professor suggested that England should instead adopt Spain’s approach of giving everyone in intensive care units the opportunity to be a donor if they are eligible.

The Government’s consultation runs until 6 March 2018 and is open to the public.