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Organ Donation

Volume 684: debated on Monday 10 July 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take steps to reverse the trend of families refusing consent for organ donation, particularly in circumstances where the individuals concerned carried a donor card or had expressly indicated that they wanted to donate their organs; and [HL6588]

Whether any progress is being made towards an opt-out scheme for organ donation instead of an opt-in scheme; and [HL6589]

What steps they are taking to increase organ donation rates.[HL6590]

More than 13 million people have registered on the organ donor register (ODR), 23 per cent of the United Kingdom population. The Department of Health gives around £1 million yearly to National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to run the ODR and to promote transplantation. It also provides Section 64 grants to a number of charities to promote donation in particular parts of the community. Specific initiatives include funding through NHSBT to support hospital-based schemes, high profile media initiatives and partnership working with a range of organisations to increase the number of people registered on the ODR and to encourage donation.

In April 2006, NHS Blood and Transplant published the results of its potential donor audit. It suggested that there may be greater opportunities to identify potential donors in intensive care units; and highlighted the high number of relatives—some 40 per cent—who refuse donation. We have asked officials to bring together a small group of key people to take stock of progress against Saving Lives Valuing Donors—A Transplant Framework for England, published in 2003; to identify current barriers to organ donation; to look at national and international experience; and to identify opportunities to increase donation rates within the current legal and regulatory framework.

The Human Tissue Act 2004, which is due to come into force on 1 September 2006, sets out the requirement for consent to be obtained to use human organs and tissue whether from the living or after death. It will make clear that relatives have no right of veto over the deceased's wish to donate, which should assist in reducing the current relatives refusal rate. We are not convinced that a policy of “presumed consent” would be effective in increasing the number of organs available for transplantation or that there is overwhelming public support for a “presumed consent” or opt-out scheme. A system of presumed consent would be entirely contrary to principles in the Human Tissue Act.