Opt-out organ donation system backed by MSPs will not boost donations, warn experts

Plans to introduce an opt-out organ donation system approved by MSPs will not increase the number of donations, according to a researchstudy.
MSPs have said an opt-out system would help save livesMSPs have said an opt-out system would help save lives
MSPs have said an opt-out system would help save lives

The proposed new system would assume an individual consents to donation unless they have stated otherwise. Under current legislation, donors must choose to “opt-in” so their organs can be donated, with many people currently carrying a donor card.

However, research carried out by Queen Mary University of London shows most legislative organ donation systems include a clause that allows the final decision to be made by family members – which often leads to them vetoing the decision of the deceased.

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The researchers suggested the new system being proposed by the Holyrood health and sport committee will not reduce the veto rates.

In 2017-18, there were 6,044 people in the UK waiting for a transplant, while 411 patients died while waiting on this list.

Lead author psychologist Dr Magda Osman, from Queen Mary University of London, said the new system alone would “not make much difference” and a whole host of infrastructure issues were required, including funding for organ transplant co-ordinators to make it work.

She said: “If you haven’t ever talked to your family about whether you want to donate your organs or not, then the only thing they’ve got to go on is that you’re in the organ donation system.

“Families are not sure if their relative wanted to donate their organs, especially if it’s an opt-out system where the consent is presumed. So that increases some level of ambiguity in relation to what we know already: the UK has one of the highest family refusal rates in the world.

“Increasing further ambiguity through an opt-out system isn’t going to help that.”

She added: “The status quo from the point of view of the opt-in means that people at least state very unambiguously their preference as you have to be willing to opt-in.”