Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The LibDems: WRONG on opt-out organ donation

The report from the Organ Donation Taskforce on the potential impact of an opt-out system for organ donation in the UK is available in pdf format here.

I have opposed opt-out organ donation since some barking mad judge suggested it. The whole idea is totally illiberal and smacks of an authoritarian state "owning" our bodies. I was surprised that the Liberal Democrats supported the idea. Norman Lamb confirmed the party's support for the scheme yesterday.

Of course, we need to increase our rate of organ donation registration. I have been a registered donor for many years and we wanted our son to be a donor when he died.

But an opt-out scheme is just morally wrong.

The Taskforce have given better reasons than my emotional ones for rejecting the scheme:

On balance, the Taskforce feels that moving to an opt out system at this time may deliver real benefits but carries a significant risk of making the current situation worse.
Nevertheless, some clear messages emerged from our findings about priority action for improving consent rates for donation, the most striking of which was the need to address the extremely low awareness of the odr. if a person’s name is on this register, 90% of families consent to donation, compared with a general consent rate of about 60%. There is a clear need to publicise the register and to make the process of registering easier and more widely understood.
Other areas for development include the following:
many people have fears or misgivings about organ donation based on misconceptions or ‘myths’ that need to be dispelled.
We need to encourage people to talk about organ donation with their families and friends, as recommended in the draft nhs constitution.

What most of this boils down to is this: When did you last see a TV advert encouraging organ donor registration? I have never seen one. There are loads for blood donation but none for organ donation. We obviously need better advertising and encouragement of inter-family discussion of the subject.

Introducing a Stalin-style opt-out scheme is just not on. The proposal is very similar to the ID scheme. I tend to apply my "drop out" test to this sort of thing. If someone decides to drop out of society they will never have the opportunity to opt-out of a organ donation scheme and if their family are not immediately available at their death their organs could be used under a opt-out scheme, but it could be that the deceased and their family had/have deeply held objections to the procedure.

You can register for organ donation here.

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