Opt-out organ donation will save British lives

Published

Credit: Magnus D / CC BY 2.0

Jack Corban
Writer

Theresa May’s Conservative Government and Labour support it, Wales have already adopted it. Britain is making the right choice by moving towards an opt-out system when it comes to organ donation.

Recently, Labour MPs have backed the policy of opt-out organ donation. Theresa May at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2017, stated that she would also be pushing for a “soft” opt-out policy. The legislation currently backed by MPs is being referred to as “Max’s Law” in honour of Max Johnson, a 10 year old boy whose life was saved by a heart transplant. This would mean that everyone would now be considered an organ donor; instead of opting to be an organ donor, you’d now have the choice to opt out of being one.

To me the main downside of this would be that I’d lose the ability to wave around my organ donor card with some egotistical sense of elevated morality, but for the supposed benefits of an opt-out system, I think I could part with this. An opt-out system would help address the many people currently in waiting for some form of organ transplant. In 2016 alone, the NHS reported that 457 people died while awaiting an organ transplant. It’s pretty simple; organ transplants save lives. In 2017, it was reported that over 50,000 people had been saved by organ transplants; an opt-out system would help ensure that those not so lucky would also receive the transplants they so desperately need.

It’d be an easy assumption that the many people in this country who are not organ donors are so for a reason and would simply opt out the moment the system would be put into place. However, for those who perhaps have a lack of awareness surrounding organ donation, or those who simply haven’t found the time to register; “deemed consent” (no objection to donating organs) would surely be an effective way to ensure more organs are available for transplant. It’s been reported that since the system was implemented in Wales, they have seen a 38% reduction in the waiting list for organ donations.

Of course, a lack of awareness of organ donation goes both ways. People who may prefer not to donate organs, perhaps due to religious reasons surrounding burial rites, may be unaware of the opt-out system being implemented. This could create complications. However, Britain is considering adopting a “soft” version: essentially, this would mean that “deemed consent” could be prevented after death by family. Currently, in Wales the family of the deceased is consulted before any organs are transplanted to ensure a confirmed consent.

It should be noted that opting-in still would still be possible within the new system, ensuring that your intentions will be acted upon, overruling any familial objections after death. Family objection to organ donation over time would likely become less common as the system becomes a functioning part of Britain’s culture. In Spain, where the opt-out system is already in place, less than 20% of families refuse to donate organs.

I want to stress I have no intention of judging those who’d rather not donate their organs, I just believe that if you intend to do so or not, it seems obvious that this system is a good way of addressing the huge waiting list of people in need of organs. I can see how opting out could be stigmatised, but it isn’t like donor cards will be replaced with a “not a donor card”, so I don’t think this is a stigma you should worry about. You can back this policy even if you intend to hold onto your organs after death – for whatever reason.

When it comes to organ donation, the UK is falling behind the rest of Europe. Already, 24 European countries have some form of an opt-out system already in place. If the UK were to catch up, then we would be joining a culture which sees death in a more positive light. For many of us, it is something to fear but I’d personally rest easier knowing that my death would help give life to others. A culture which promotes that to me seems like a wonderful thing.