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Humanists UK submits evidence in support of opt-out organ donation in England

Take Action! Respond to the Government’s consultation on introducing an opt-out organ system in England. The deadline for responses is Tuesday 6 March at 11.59pm. Read Humanists UK’s response to help you draft your own.

Humanists UK, in conjunction with Richard Norman, Professor Emeritus of Moral Philosophy at the University of Kent, has responded to the Government’s consultation calling for the implementation of an opt-out organ donation system in England. This system, which is already in place in Wales, increases the number of organs available for transplant, saving lives.

England currently operates an opt-in system, in which prospective organ donors must sign up to an organ donor register. However, many people who are happy to donate their organs after death either do not sign up for the register or do not discuss the matter with relatives or friends, and so medical professionals are not aware that they wished to consent. The British Medical Association estimates that although 66% of people would wish to donate, only 39% actually have signed the register.

Last week, the Government confirmed that it will support the Private Members’ Bill introduced by Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson to introduce this system in England. Such support means that it is highly likely that the Bill will be passed by Parliament. The Government’s consultation focuses on how such a system would operate in practice, including the means by which an individual can register an objection, how best to educate the public about the change, and what role family members will play in the decision to donate.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We are delighted that England seems set to make the change to an opt-out system. There is substantial evidence from Wales and other European jurisdictions that this system can dramatically increase rates of donation from individuals, reducing the suffering of those awaiting a transplant. This system also places a stronger protection on the rights of the individual to determine what happens to their body and organs after death.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan on rachel@humanists.uk or 07951 176 245.

Humanists UK supports  a ‘soft’ system of ‘presumed consent’, whereby organ donation (for those over the age of 16) would be the default position, but individuals could opt-out while alive. Next of kin would be informed after death that the individual had not opted out and asked if they are aware of any unregistered objection: this would make their decision easier than at present. If not, organs could be transplanted. This is now the position in Wales, and we support this being rolled out across the UK, accompanied by public information and education campaigns. We support campaigns to encourage the public to discuss their wishes for the end of life, including organ donation, in advance.

You can join the Organ Donor Register and help save lives after your death at https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

Read Humanists UK’s response to the Government Consultation: https://humanists.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-01-08-RTR-Organ-donation-consultation.pdf

Read more about our campaigns work on organ donation: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanists.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk

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