GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES NEW SYSTEM OF CONSENT FOR ORGAN AND TISSUE DONATION
- Government outlines plans to implement a new system of consent for organ donation to tackle a shortage of donors, saving hundreds of lives every year
- The proposed system, expected to start in 2020, will make it easier for people to record, share and amend their preferences on organ donation, including an option to state their religious and cultural beliefs to ensure they are respected
- The Minister calls on the public to discuss their wishes on organ donation with loved ones to spare families having to make the decision on their behalf
The Government has today announced new plans to change the law to a new system of consent for organ and tissue donation, saving hundreds of lives every year. The plans aim to address the urgent need for organs, particularly for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Three people still die each day across the UK in need of an organ transplant – with people from minority ethnic communities disproportionately affected. These patients wait on average six months longer for a kidney transplant than a white patient. Three out of ten people waiting for an organ are from a minority ethnic background, yet last year just 7% of deceased donors were black or Asian.
The proposed new system of consent for organ and tissue donation is expected to come into effect in England in spring 2020 as part of a drive to help those people desperately waiting for a life-saving transplant. The legislation, which was introduced in Parliament last July, is expected to return to the House of Commons in the autumn.
Under the proposals, children under 18, individuals who lack the mental capacity to understand the changes and people who have not lived in England for at least 12 months before their death will be excluded from the plans to ensure the system is fair. There will also be strict safeguards in place and specialist nurses will always discuss donation with families so an individual’s wishes are respected.
Jackie Doyle-Price, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities, said:
“It cannot be right that a shortage of donors means people from minority ethnic backgrounds wait longer for a transplant than others. Although progress has been made, the truth remains that far too many people will die while waiting for an organ.
“Organ donation is of course a deeply personal choice, and for many, their faith will play an important factor in their decision. We want to make it much easier for people to record and share their decision with friends, families and to NHS staff so that they can be confident their wishes – whether or not they choose to donate – will always be respected.”
Those who do not want to donate their organs will be able to record their decision on the Organ Donor Register – either via NHS Blood and Transplant’s website or by calling their helpline. The NHS app, launching at the end of this year, will make it even easier for people to record their decision on organ donation.
From December 2018, the NHS Organ Donor Register will also include the option for people registering to donate to state that their faith is important to their organ donation decision. This will enable them to signal that their family or faith leaders should be involved in discussions to ensure that religious traditions are respected. NHS staff will be trained to ensure they are aware of these considerations.
People from minority communities are more likely to suffer from a disease that requires a transplant – such as high blood pressure, diabetes and sickle cell anaemia. Although many black and Asian patients are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, for many the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background.
The announcement comes after the Government launched a campaign, led by NHS Blood and Transplant with support from the National BAME Transplant Alliance, to address the cultural and religious barriers to organ donation in certain communities.
Minority ethnic families increasingly support donation but still only agree to donate 42% of the time, compared with 69% of white families.
Orin Lewis, co-chair of the National BAME Transplant Alliance and chief executive of the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT), said:
“Race, ethnicity, culture and faith define many of us as individuals and as communities. This new system of organ donation presents us with an opportunity to save hundreds of black, Asian, mixed race and ethnic minority lives. It must be embraced, because key aspects of organ donation matching is linked to the racial identity of the patient and donor.”
Kirit Mistry, co-chair of the National BAME Transplant Alliance and chair of South Asian Health Action Charity, said:
“If people don’t discuss their wishes with their loved ones and positively engaging with the new system of consenting for organ donation, our own people will be consigned to years of unnecessary treatment, such as dialysis. And ultimately many will run out of time waiting for a donor.
“We want to continue to see ongoing engagement with the wider BAME and faith communities to ensure that the new system is fully understood and everyone can make an informed decision.”
The announcement follows a consultation earlier this year, in which the Government sought views from members of the public about organ donation, receiving an unprecedented 17,000 responses.
There will be a 12-month transition period to allow time for discussion with friends and family about organ donation preferences ahead of the new system coming into effect in spring 2020.