Skip to main content

Organ Donation

Volume 633: debated on Tuesday 19 December 2017

1. What the evidential basis is for his Department’s proposals on presumed consent for organ donation. (903013)

An impact assessment has been published as part of the Government’s public consultation, and it suggests that moving towards an opt-out system for organ donation, as part of a wider communication and logistical package, can be associated with higher donation rates. The Government have invited submissions of further evidence, which we will consider carefully before responding. We have already received in excess of 2,000 responses since the consultation started last week.

As someone with a long-standing passion to increase the number of organs available for donation, I am encouraged by the Minister’s response. Does she think that the shift from the current voluntary system to one where the state makes decisions based on presumed consent had an impact on the reduction in the number of live donors over the past three years?

I part with my hon. Friend on his point about the state taking control through presumed consent. We are talking about a register from which people could physically opt out, rather than opt in. The issues about end-of-life consent will continue to be the same, and the next of kin will be a full consultee. As for live donation, the issues are complex, but one reason why we are seeing a decline is that the waiting lists for receiving an organ are coming down, which is reducing the need for live donors. We should keep a watching brief on that.

Part of the evidence base relates to the fact that hundreds of people die each year because we do not have enough organ donors, so I thank the Minister for her work in bringing forward this consultation. What more can be done to widen public participation?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support and for his hard work in this space. Through him, I can perhaps thank the Daily Mirror for its public displays of education through the Max’s law campaign, but we all need to make an effort. There is no doubt that the public are hugely in favour of donation and want to be able to support it as best they can, but the matter has rather fallen from public consciousness. Everyone in the House has an opportunity to raise public awareness, get involved in the consultation and have a real debate, because we need to ensure that people are willing to donate their organs so that we can save more lives.

There are already 24 million people on the voluntary organ donation register, which is a significant proportion of Great Britain’s population. None the less, three people a day die because appropriate organs are not available for transplant, and it is vital to do something about that. Is my hon. Friend aware of a particular difficulty with members of black and minority ethnic populations being more reluctant to join the register than others? Is there a way to encourage them to take part in the voluntary scheme?

My hon. Friend highlights one of the biggest challenges we face. There is no doubt that the rate of organ donation is much lower among black and minority ethnic populations, and yet they are more likely to suffer from diseases that require a donated organ, so we are keen to work on that. Only this week, I met organisations connected with the black and Asian community to discuss how we can communicate, getting the right messages through the right messengers, to encourage people to join the register.

I fully support the organ donation opt-out, because it will increase the pool of organ donors. Will the Minister comment on whether the recent statistics from the Welsh Health Department show an increase in the provision of organs due to presumed consent? In other words, has it been a success so far?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support. The figures from Wales come at an early stage, but the system that we are looking to introduce has much in common with that in Spain. The issue is not so much about the register moving towards an opt-out system, but the wraparound care that goes with it, such as the specialist nurses who speak with relatives when they are going through the trauma of losing a loved one, and the public debate that raises awareness. Taken together, they are what will lead to more organs becoming available.