Organ Donation: Opt-in or opt-out?

May 01, 2012, 3:00 PM GMT+0

The little blue card with the red heart stamped on it; the small piece of plastic some carry around with them, never really giving any thought to. The purpose it serves, however, is far from insignificant.

In the UK, we have an 'opt-in' system for organ donation, in which willing donors volunteer to give up their organs after death to those who need them.

But the British Medical Association thinks there should be an opt-out donation system, with safeguards for organ donation, so that more people will donate and more people waiting for transplants will be helped faster.

While the number of organ donations has increased sharply in recent years, it still lags a long way behind the number of people waiting for a transplant, and the BMA feels more needs to be done to meet demand.

An alternative opt-out system is already being considered by the Welsh Government. It is thought that bill could be passed in 2013, paving the way for what would be the first system of its kind in the UK.

It will assume that all people wish to donate their organs, unless they request to be removed from the register. The Welsh Government is still drawing up the details of the bill-including the option of a veto for families.

We asked what you think about organ donation, and most participants we asked were in favour of the Welsh opt-out system.They explained that this would greatly increase the number of vital transplants, as many people often put off registering as a donor.

Others said that they would want to retain the option of a veto for relatives.

But there were those who were opposed, who thought that the current system should remain – who often pointed out that it is wrong for the state to assume they have a right to people’s bodies, and that individuals should make the choice for themselves on this sensitive issue.

What are your views on organ donation? Should we change the system, and what are the benefits of each option? Join the debate below

Here's what our poll participants had to say...

Organ Donation: Opt-in or opt-out?

Argument 1: We should switch to an opt-out system

It would produce a better supply of organs and would negate those people who would donate but can't be bothered to volunteer” Andy H, Portsmouth

“It reduces the current pressure on relatives to consent when they are grieving” Anon

The opting-out system would still enable those who have strong objections to deny permission so there should be no issue. The problem with the opt-in system is that many people either don't get round to listing themselves as a donor or don't want to think about death” Anon

“Many people think it is a valuable contribution to make, but never actually get around to making their wishes known either to their relatives or the organ donor registerClaire D, Cleveland

“All this waste of perfectly good organs is a crime in itself to my mind, and it is just as easy to sign a card if you choose to opt out as it is to sign to be in as is the current systemBri, Bradford

“All people's organs should be used unless there is a specific medical or religious reason not toAnon

“I think a lot of people would be happy to give their organs, but don't get around to joining the donor list. It’s one of those things that is not high on a person’s list of prioritiesAnon

“There is a real need for organ donation across the whole of the UK, and not enough potential donors either come forward or let their next-of-kin know their wishes” Anon

Argument 2: We should keep the opt-in system

“Some of these choices are made by people on religious grounds, self-beliefs and their own morals. Just as we should not dictate how other people live, we should not dictate how they dieVictoria, Staffordshire

This issue is a very sensitive one and I feel it should be entirely voluntary. I really feel strongly that people should retain their own preference, on any matter, rather than have it forced upon them” Golfy, Lincolnshire

“It is the only thing throughout a person’s life that can be said to be truly theirs and I would defend the right to make whatever choice one saw fit to do with one's own bodyAnon

Giving something as precious as an organ is a deeply personal matter and not something that the medical profession should simply assume as a matter of course” Anon

An opt out system will be costly and complicated to implement- as it is, the system is easy to manage” Frances, Suffolk

“An opt out system presupposes could imply that our bodies are owned by the stateFrank E, Croydon

“Presumed consent is not consent; it takes advantage of those not in the know, ignorant of the situation or haven’t got around to opting out” Anon

Argument 3: We should have the option of a ‘veto’ for relatives

It would increase the number of organs available whilst still allowing their families to stop the donation if they have strong feelings about it” RB West Midlands

“An opt-out system would increase the amount of potential donors. The veto by relatives would be necessary due to the heightened emotions at the time of someone’s death so that they felt they had some control over events” Anon

“We need to increase the availability of organs, but a right of veto protects the sensitivities of relativesAnon

“It is important to donate organs; however sometimes for reasons like religion or culture this may be unacceptable for the familyPeter B, Cornwall

“If someone has a deeply held conviction regarding their organs, then they should not have to donate them - if they forget then their close family should be allowed a veto” Elliot, Nottingham

“I am generally in favour of an opt-out system but think there may be circumstances when it would be good for relatives to have a veto, e.g. the sudden accidental death of a child” Anon

What are your views on organ donation? Should we change the system, and what are the benefits of each option? Join the debate below

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