Two thirds of people support a ‘soft’ opt-out organ donation system

Hospital care

A new survey by the British Medical Association has found that two thirds of people across the UK1 (65 per cent) support a ‘soft’ opt-out organ donation system2.

The survey, which questioned 2011 members of the public, also found that while two out of three people (66%) want to donate their organs at death only a third (39%) are signed up to the organ donation register.

Currently England, Northern Ireland and Scotland have an opt-in organ donation system where a person has to register their consent to donate their organs in the event of their death.

Under an opt-out system, which has already been introduced in Wales, there would be a presumption in favour of consent for organ donation unless a person had registered an objection in advance.

If an objection had not been registered, family members would still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection, as an extra safeguard, before any procedures went ahead.

The BMA has long advocated a ‘soft’ opt-out system with safeguards for organ donation and continues to believe this is the best option for the UK to reduce the shortage of organs and save lives.

Dr John Chisholm, BMA ethics committee chair, said:

“Although organ transplantation has seen amazing medical achievements it has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential.

“These figures show that in the current system, a large number of people who wish to donate their organs are not signing up to the register. Vital opportunities to save people’s lives are being missed.

“Around 10,000 people in the UK are in need of an organ transplant, with 1,000 people dying each year while still on the waiting list. As a doctor it is difficult to see your patients dying and suffering when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant.

“Since soft opt-out was adopted in Wales, 160 organs have been transplanted, almost a quarter of which were down to the new system.

“The BMA is calling for all UK governments to follow suit and adopt a soft opt-out system. If we have an opportunity to address the chronic shortage of organs and save the lives of patients across the UK, surely we should be taking it.”

  1. The survey questioned people in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. It did not include Wales as a soft opt-out system has already been introduced there.
  2. For further information on the BMA’s policy on organ donation and how the current law differs across the UK please click here.
  3. A full copy of the survey is attached.



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