U.K. ignores physicians' call for presumed consent organ donation
NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 9, 2004
Despite a plea from the British Medical Assn., provisions for allowing a "presumed consent" organ donation policy were not added to the Human Tissues Bill now before the United Kingdom House of Commons.
Under presumed-consent policies, organs can be removed from suitable donors without permission unless the patients previously had registered their objections to being an organ donor. Dr. Michael Wilks, chair of the BMA Ethics Committee, called the decision to not pursue presumed consent "wasting an opportunity."
"The BMA supports a 'soft' system of presumed consent in which relatives' views are also taken into account," he said in a press release. "The crucial difference would be in the approach to relatives. Instead of being asked to consent to donation, they would be informed that their relative had not opted out of donation."
The donation would proceed unless the relatives said they knew the patient wouldn't want to donate or if the donation would cause the family "major distress," Dr. Wilks said.
Spain, which has the highest organ donation rates in the world, has a presumed-consent policy, but U.K. Health Minister Rosie Winterton said other policies contribute to that success.
"Evidence from Spain ... has shown that having a person responsible for identifying possible organ donors in the hospital is the most effective way of increasing donors," Winterton said in a press release.
Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/02/09/prbf0209.htm.