By Patrick Hennessy and Laura Donnelly
Gordon Brown has thrown his weight behind a move to allow hospitals to take organs from dead patients without explicit consent.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister says that such a facility would save thousands of lives and that he hopes such a system can start this year.
The proposals would mean consent for organ donation after death would be automatically presumed, unless individuals had opted out of the national register or family members objected.
But patients’ groups said that they were “totally opposed” to Mr Brown’s plan, saying that it would take away patients’ rights over their own bodies.
There are more than 8,000 patients waiting for an organ donation and more than 1,000 a year die without receiving the organ that could save their lives.
The Government will launch an overhaul of the system next week, which will put pressure on doctors and nurses to identify more “potential organ donors” from dying patients. Hospitals will be rated for the number of deceased patients they “convert” into donors and doctors will be expected to identify potential donors earlier and alert donor co-ordinators as patients approach death.
But Mr Brown, who carries a donor card, has made it clear he backs an even more radical revamp of the system, which would lead to donation by “presumed consent”. The approach is modelled on that of Spain, which has the highest proportion of organ donors in the world.
“A system of this kind seems to have the potential to close the aching gap between the potential benefits of transplant surgery in the UK and the limits imposed by our current system of consent,” Mr Brown writes.
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