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Presumed-consent organ donation plan backed by patients and charities

A kidney transplant patient is among those welcoming Theresa May’s announcement to “shift the balance of presumption in favour of organ donations” in England, saying it will give more people a realistic chance of receiving a transplant.

The proposals would see changes to the current system whereby those wishing to donate their organs have to opt in, which requires registration on a scheme run by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

A Government consultation on “presumed consent” will look at whether there should be a reversal of the rules in which people would be automatically entered on to the donor register – unless they choose to opt out.

Sarah Harwood, 29, who suffered kidney failure after being diagnosed with Goodpasture’s Syndrome aged 18, said the Prime Minster’s move towards an opt-out system is a “really positive step”.

“I had a transplant 10 years ago and I was lucky as I only waited eight months, but for me it felt endless because you just don’t know when you will get that call,” she said.

“So much has been done by patients, NHSBT and charities to raise awareness about organ donation and the soft opt-out option is the right way to go. But we still need to raise awareness and remind people to talk to their families about their wishes.”

Mrs May told the Tory Party conference that 500 people died last year because a suitable donor organ was not available.

Theresa May speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester (Joe Giddens/PA)

“Our ability to help people who need transplants is limited by the number of organ donors that come forward,” the Prime Minister said.

“That is why last year 500 people died because a suitable organ was not available. And there are 6,500 on the transplant list today.

“So to address this challenge that affects all communities in our country, we will change that system. Shifting the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation.”

The announcement at the Tory Party conference in Manchester has been praised by health charities and doctors.

British Heart Foundation chief executive Simon Gillespie said the change to a soft-out option “can’t come soon enough for patients”.

The soft opt-out system means consent is deemed to have been given unless the person objected to donation in their lifetime.

The deceased’s family is involved in the decision process and if the family says the a dead relative objected to organ donation, then no harvesting will go ahead.

“The Government’s commitment to a soft opt-out system is a commitment to ending the agonising pain felt by families who risk losing a loved one while they wait for a donor,” Mr Gillespie added.

Peter Storey, director of communications at Kidney Research UK, said: “The waiting list for people who need a kidney makes up more than 90% of the organ transplant waiting list yet only around 3,000 transplants are carried out each year. It means … five people die every week waiting for a kidney transplant they cannot get.

“We believe much more needs to be done to improve organ donation rates across the UK and a soft system of presumed consent for organ donation would help combat the severe shortage of donors in this country.”

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