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Change to organ donor law shelved

Doubts over whether a new opt-out system of organ donation would work have prompted the UK government to shelve the plans.

The move follows recommendations by the Organ Donation Taskforce, which called for improvements to be made without a change in the law.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was willing to try out the recommendations, but added that the issue might have to be “revisited” later if organ donor targets are not met.

An opt-out or “presumed consent” system would make people automatic donors, giving doctors the right to remove their organs after death unless they make their objections clear in advance.

A “soft” version of the scheme, favoured by the British Medical Association, would give families the final say on whether a loved one’s organs can be taken.

Both Mr Brown and his chief medical adviser, Sir Liam Donaldson, are in favour of presumed consent, believing it would help reduce the chronic shortage of transplant organs and save lives.

However, the taskforce concluded in a report that an opt-out system was unlikely to help, voicing concerns that such a scheme might undermine public trust in the NHS and actually reduce organ donation rates.

Since the report’s publication, Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced the launch of a £4.5 million campaign aimed at recruiting nearly half the population to the organ donor register.

Copyright Press Association 2008

Department of Health