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England to move to 'opt-out' model for organ donation, PM announces

England will move to an opt-out system for organ donation, meaning everyone will be presumed to be an organ donors unless they express their dissent, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

In a tumultuous flagship speech at the Conservative Party Conference – where she was interrupted by a comedian and knocked off stride by a cough - Ms May also announced an urgent review of mental health services.

The BMA welcomed the announcements and said it has long called for an opt-in organ donor system, but chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was ‘disappointing’ that neither she nor the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had made any announcements to address the ‘mounting crisis’ in the NHS.

The 'opt-out' announcement follows policies implemented in Wales in 2015, and announced by the Scottish Government in June this year, which showed signs of saving lives within months of implementation.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also announced such a policy at his party's conference last week.

Highlighting her Government’s focus on addressing inequalities, particularly the different health outcomes in black and minority ethnic (BME] communities, Ms May said: ‘Our ability to help people who need transplants is limited by the number of organ donors who come forward.

‘That’s 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.'

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘It is important that the new process [for organ donation] is well publicised to ensure the public are fully aware of and understand this important change.

But added it was ‘excellent news’ and could ‘save many lives’.

Ms May also announced a review into the Mental Health Act, particularly its disproportionate use in detaining young men from BME communities, will be chaired by former chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Sir Simon Wessely.

She said he had been asked 'to undertake an independent review of the Mental Health Act so we can tackle the long standing injustices and recrimination in our mental health system once and for all'.

However, Dr Nagpaul said that he was 'disappointed' at the lack of NHS policies. 

‘It is right that the Prime Minister thanked NHS staff for their hard work, however, it is disappointing that, as with the health secretary speech yesterday, there have been no new announcements aimed at addressing the mounting crisis that is already overwhelming many parts of the NHS and will only get worse during the winter.’

Her speech was interrupted by comedian Lee Nelson, real name Simon Brodkin, who handed her a P45 mid-speech.

Her keynote was further undermined by a persistent cough which meant she had to borrow a lozenge from Chancellor Philip Hammond and by her set slowly disintegrating behind her.

Readers' comments (5)

  • This is fantastic news and long overdue

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  • That so many people have died whilst on waiting lists before this blindingly obvious change is made beggars belief. This has been debated for decades. It is shameful it has taken until now to (nearly) reach fruition.

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  • How many times...

    You join a register to opt in which gives you eligibility to receive a transplant (including blood/stem cells, etc). If you're not on the list you're not getting in. You have to sign before you're 30.

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  • Cobblers

    My wife and I are not fit for dog meat by virtue of our medical problems and treatments so, in a sense, we are standing outside this argument. The state getting involved rarely, if ever, results in an improvement in the situation. I have listed the contra arguments, as, no doubt, this article will be full of comments indicating support. A balance in needed.

    • Few question the value of transplant operations or the need for more donors. But a programme designed to recruit more donors is preferable to a change in the law. If it doesn’t work question why, don’t change the law.
    • The proposed change implies that our bodies belong to the State as soon as we are dead. The assumption is offensive.
    • Organ removal without the expressed wish of the deceased could be distressing for his or her family. Let’s not even mention religion, some of whom require the whole body to go into the grave, where possible.
    • The proposed change in the law is open to abuse, with the possibility of death being hastened to secure an organ needed by some other patient.
    • The safeguard - that is, the right to refuse permission for your organs to be removed - is inadequate. A terminally ill patient or his/her relatives would be made to feel selfish if permission was withheld.

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  • Great typo:

    ‘Ms May also announced a review into the Mental Health Act, particularly its disproportionate use in detaining young men from BMA’

    Shurely sould have read ‘old men from BMA, CQC, GMC, NHSE, RCGP’?

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  • Oops. Now corrected.

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