Everyone should be considered an organ donor unless they state otherwise - British Heart Foundation

Posted On: 
20th February 2018

The British Heart Foundation’s Chief Executive writes in support of Geoffrey Robinson MP’s Private Members’ Bill, calling for an opt-out system for organ donation, which has its second reading this week.

"We need a health system that can cope efficiently and effectively with these changes to ensure that organ donation becomes a routine feature of every day hospital practice" - Simon Gillespie, British Heart Foundation Chief Executive
Credit: 
PA

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be told you need a new heart; that the organ that drives and feeds every part of your body is beyond repair.

That dreadful conversation is the reality for hundreds of critically ill heart patients across England. For them, a new heart offers the best chance of staying alive.

But for too many people their time runs out before that heart is found. We desperately need more donors so that more lives are saved.

That’s why the British Heart Foundation is supporting the introduction of a soft opt-out (presumed consent) system for organ donation in England. This system would mean that everyone is considered an organ donor unless they state otherwise. We know that most people would be in favour of this, with a poll showing that 90% support organ donation.

Geoffrey Robinson MP has introduced a Private Members’ Bill that would bring in a system of opt-out organ donation. We urge all MPs to support this Bill and vote for it at Second Reading on Friday 23 February.

But legislating is only part of the solution.

We need to drive cultural change across England and create a nation far better engaged with organ donation.

A wide-ranging communications strategy must be put in place to encourage greater awareness of organ donation. Both so that people understand the need to talk to their family about their wishes, but also so that people who are strongly against donation know how to opt-out too.

We must also do more to engage BAME communities, who have traditionally both higher rates of heart disease and lower rates of donation.

We need a health system that can cope efficiently and effectively with these changes to ensure that organ donation becomes a routine feature of every day hospital practice.

And, we mustn’t forget that at the heart of this is the family. We encourage all families to have a conversation about their wishes should the worst happen. Spending a bit of time now making your wishes known could save a lot of heartache for your family in future.

We have a long way to go before more of those people waiting for a heart receives that call to say it’s ready for them. But I believe this first step towards a soft opt-out system for organ donation, along with a package of measures that go hand in hand with legislation, is the first step towards saving more lives.