Beds public health expert urges people to share wishes around organ donation with families

Wed 13 December, 2017
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A public health expert from the University of Bedfordshire has argued that more people should discuss organ donation with their families following the launch of a public consultation around the current system in England.

Prof Gurch Randhawa, Director of the University’s Institute of Health Research, said he hoped the consultation, launched by the Department of Health around whether the organ donation system should be changed to an ‘opt-out’ system, will motivate more people to make their organ donation wishes known.

“I am pleased to see that the Department of Health has launched a consultation that encourages families to discuss organ donation,” said Prof Randhawa. “Changing the default position to ‘opt-out’ could potentially encourage more families to discuss this sensitive topic.”

The current system is an ‘opt-in’ system, meaning people must sign up to the organ donation register. An ‘opt-out’ system would assume everyone is a potential donor unless they remove themselves from the register.

“There is mixed evidence around whether ‘opt-out’ or ‘opt-in’ systems in themselves have an impact on organ donation rates. The key issue to resolve is encouraging more people to discuss organ donation with their families,” added Prof Randhawa.

Whatever system is in place, it is still families who give final consent if their loved one dies, which, Prof Randhawa argues, is why more people should tell their families what their wishes are around organ donation should the worst happen.

“Hopefully, the consultation will motivate more people make their organ donation wishes know," he said.

Prof Randhawa’s research into faith and cultural issues around organ donation was also cited in the consultation, which can be read here: Open consultation: Introducing ‘opt-out’ consent for organ and tissue donation in England

“I feel privileged that the consultation document refers to our research relating to equity, faith, and ethnicity issues, demonstrating how research can impact policy and practice,” said Prof Randhawa.

Prof Randhawa is a world-leading researcher on public engagement and organ donation. He currently co-chairs the European Working Group on public issues and organ donation. He also chairs the UK Transplant 2020 Stakeholder Group and has previously served on the Organ Donation Taskforce.


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