Organ donor opt-out system 'unlikely' to increase donations

Opt-out donation plan 'will not increase donors'

Opt-out donation plan 'will not increase donors'

Dr Magda Osman, the lead researcher, said: "If you automatically presume consent of the entire nation by putting them into an opt-out system, what you do is you artificially inflate the numbers on the register but it doesn't necessarily translate into more organ donations".

The study was a psychology experiment involving a total of almost 1,300 people from a number of different countries with different systems of organ donation, including the US, UK, Germany, Austria, Spain, France and Norway.

Instead, donors should be encouraged to actively choose to "opt-in" to ensure they genuinely wish to donate their organs, say scientists.

Three studies involving nearly 1,300 United States and European men and women aged 18 to 72 showed that a donor's underlying wish to donate was perceived to be stronger if they had opted in.

Wales introduced an opt in system in 2015 but it has not increased donations.

Scotland plans to introduce a similar scheme and Northern Ireland has also expressed an interest.

Osman said: "We've already got a situation where veto rates are quite high under circumstances where you generally have to indicate consent".

NHSBT said this resulted in around 1,200 people missing out on potentially life-saving transplants.

Why might an opt-out system not increase donations?

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In England there have been specific drives encouraging people to tell family members about their wishes surrounding organ donation in the event of their death.

The study involved more than 1,200 American and European participants from countries that had either opt-in or default opt-out systems taking on the role of a third party to judge the likelihood that an individual's "true wish" was to actually donate their organs, given that they were registered to donate on the organ donation register.

"This should involve an expressed statement of intention if their wish is to donate, or an expressed statement of intention if there is an objection to donate".

"Being automatically transferred into the system doesn't provide a strong signal [to your family members] as to whether you want to donate your organs, so that's going to exacerbate a problem which already exists".

What's the argument for the opt-out system?

Even under the existing opt-in system, many relatives have vetoed organ donation.

In 2017/18 there were 6,044 people in the United Kingdom waiting for a transplant and 411 patients died while waiting.

Commenting on the new study, an NHS Blood and Transplant spokesman said: "This is a decision for the Government and Parliament".

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