With long organ donation lists and patients being put at risk, an opt out system is being hotly debated in the UK. At the beginning of the year, MPs backed a landmark bill that would introduce an opt out organ donation process, paving the way for it to be an approach that’s adopted in the UK.
The bull was put forward after it was revealed that England has some of the lowest rates of organ donation in Western Europe and around 500 people die every year due to a lack of suitable donors. Should it move forward, the system would mean everyone is listed as a donor unless they actively register their decision to opt out. It would replace a system where donors need to actively register on the NHS Organ Donor Register or a family chooses whether to donate if no decision has been recorded.
But while the opt out system has received the backing of MPs, it still has arguments both for and against.
For opt out organ donation
Right at the top of the list of arguments in favour of the system, it the number of lives it could save. A similar system is already in place in Wales and polls suggest the general public are in favour of being part of the system. This is further underpinned by the fact that medical advancements mean organ transplants are far more likely to be successful, increasing the lives that could be saved.
It’s also argued that those against the opt out system are reasoning based on sentimentality rather than logic when weighed up against the benefits patients could experience with shorter donor waiting lists.
Against opt out organ donation
Despite the pro arguments, there are several core arguments against arguments that need to be addressed. Those that oppose the opt out system typically don’t disagree with trying to extend the organ donation programme but rather the strategy that’s being taken. It’s been stated that the opt out system implies that bodies belong to the state and that campaigns to increase donor recruitment is a better option.
It also raises safeguarding issues, as patients haven’t directly said they do want their organs to be donated and those that want to refuse could feel pressured by social norms to comply.
Do you think an opt out organ donation system will work better than the current process?