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Medical chief advocates presumed consent for organ donation

16th July 2007

People should be required to opt out of organ donation rather than volunteer, the chief medical officer is expected to urge tomorrow.

It is anticipated that Sir Liam Donaldson, the UK's most senior doctor, will call for the change in his annual report.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is already campaigning for presumed consent, which would mean automatic organ removal unless the patient has registered an objection.

Exceptions would be made were the family aware of unexpressed opposition or if they would experience extreme distress as a result of removal.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said: "We are now getting closer to a system of presumed consent. We have exhausted all other ways of increasing the number of organs available."

Over 7,300 Britons are waiting for a life-saving organ, an increase of about 30 per cent over the past decade.

A survey by UK Transplant revealed that although 90 per cent of the population support organ donation, only 23 per cent has joined the register.

'Soft' presumed consent was introduced in Belgium in 1986 and since then the number of organs available has almost doubled.