More ethical thinking on family refusals which are responsible for less organ donations in the UK.

According to NHS BT we are unable to convince families of the importance of organ donation in saving lives.

Last year, 66% of families in the UK agreed to donate. But that still meant 1,148 families declined to support organ donation. Kidney Wales says saving a life from the agony of being on an organ donation waiting list should be important to humanity.

According to NHS BT if all those families had agreed to donate it would have led to nearly 3,000 extra transplants, based on the average number of transplants per deceased donor over that year.
There are currently 6,133 people on the transplant waiting list in the UK. [1]

Kidney Wales acknowledges there are record levels of organ donation in the UK, but the figures should be even higher and on a par with other leading European countries.

There are gaps in policy and education in organ donation in the UK, and more respect needs to be given to the registered donor and the recipient in the cruel nature of waiting for a transplant.

Kidney Wales asks: “Why is it that a family member can overturn the wishes of another family member in donating organs but not on overturning wishes to opt out of organ donation?”

Professor Roy J Thomas, Chief Executive of Kidney Wales, said “Family refusals are the biggest barrier to organ donation. We should respect those wishing to donate and carry out their wishes, and presume everyone wants to save lives.

“If anyone does not wish to donate there is now a way of opting out and that is a UK register. “

He added: “Currently, the autonomy of the individual is being eroded. The human right of that individual to donate their organs is being overturned by those closest to them.

“The system is flawed in the UK. We need to educate the public that if they do not wish to donate they may opt-out. Less than eight per cent have done so in Wales, the Welsh Government thought it would be 10 per cent.”

Surveys show around 80% of people support organ donation. According to NHS BT only 33% of people have told their family that they want to donate [2]. In circumstances where a family does not know their loved one’s wishes, they are far more likely to refuse to give their consent to organ donation.

Organ donation legislation will change in England by 2020.

Professor Thomas said: “Wales has led the way on the organ donation laws on deemed consent, but while still legislating in England, those waiting for an organ are dying right now. So, we need to change the system and training in talking to families. It demonstrates that a system of Deemed Consent if enacted properly is the most efficient as seen in other European countries but it is the implementation that is crucial.” [3]

Professor Thomas established and opened a Centre for Life Ethics and Organ Donation at Swansea University in June 2018.

Shaun Ruck, who is waiting for a kidney transplant patient said: “More donors are needed to save more lives every day. I agree that people not just sit there and hope their families know what they want but also wishes of the registered donor should be respected. Like me, there are people who need their lives saved today.”

In a recent survey in Wales respondents were asked, unprompted, if they were aware of the current system of organ donation in Wales. Approximately eight out of ten (82 per cent) reported that they were aware of the current system.

1. As of August 16th, 2018 –source NHS BT.
2. Source NHS BT
3. Wales introduced a deemed consent (‘opt out’) system in December 2015. In June 2018, the Scottish Government introduced a Bill providing for an opt out system to be considered by the Scottish Parliament. Northern Ireland has confirmed that it will not be changing to an opt out system but undertook a consultation to seek the public’s views on what more could be done to promote organ donation in Northern Ireland. Jersey introduced legislation earlier this year and the Isle of Man are also in the process of introducing new legislation to introduce deemed consent. See Opt Out System enacted in Belgium in mid 80’s.
4. Source https://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/public-attitudes-organ-donation/?lang=en