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  1. ITV Report

Plan for organ donation 'opt-out' system launched

  • Video report by ITV News political correspondent Emily Morgan

Plans for an opt-out organ donation system are being launched by the Government.

The current system in England requires people to opt-in to allow their organs, including eyes, heart and kidneys, to be made available for use on patients.

While 80% of people say they would be willing to donate their organs, only 36% are officially registered, according to the Department for Health.

Now Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is launching a consultation into plans for an opt-out system.

Tuesday's announcement comes after Prime Minister Theresa May said in October that the Government will shift towards an organ donation system in England which presumes consent.

Mr Hunt said families should overcome the "fatal reluctance" to talk about organ donation. He said people should have an open conversation and make their wishes clear to relatives in order to save the lives of patients waiting for a transplant.

"Every day three people die for want of a transplant, which is why our historic plans to transform the way organ donation works are so important," the health secretary said.

"We want as many people as possible to have their say as we shape the new opt-out process.

"But as well as changing the law, we also need to change the conversation - it can be a difficult subject to broach, but overcoming this fatal reluctance to talk openly about our wishes is key to saving many more lives in the future."

Some 6,500 people are currently waiting for a transplant in the UK. However, around 1,100 families in the past year decided not to allow organ donation because they were unsure about their relatives wishes, according to NHS Blood and Transplant.

Only half of those on the registry have discussed their wishes with a family member, the Department for Health said.

The consultation will look at how much say a family should have over a person's decision to donate their organs, what groups will be affected by the change and and what "opt-out" exemptions will be required.

"We support any initiative which leads to more organ donors and more lives being saved," said Millie Banerjee, chairwoman of NHS Blood and Transplant.

"We hope the consultation starts a national conversation about organ donation. If you want to donate, please tell your family now."

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Introducing an opt-out system in England will mean more people get the life-saving heart transplant they desperately need.

"In the meantime, it's still important for all of us to have conversations with our loved ones about organ donation so our wishes can be met if the worst should happen."

The consultation will close on March 6.

The current system in England requires people to opt-in to organ donation. Credit: PA