Commenting today on the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson's, announcement that a government taskforce will investigate the issue of presumed consent for organ donation1, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Head of BMA Ethics and Science, said:

"The BMA has been campaigning for a review of organ donation for many years so today's announcement is very good news indeed. We believe that when the taskforce looks at this issue in detail they will agree with us that a system of presumed consent with safeguards, will help to increase the number of donors available. At least one person dies every day while waiting for an organ transplant and we desperately need to change this.

"Before any changes go ahead however, it is essential that a public information campaign is launched so that people are completely aware of the choices they can make about organ donation. It is important that everyone realises that they will not be compelled to donate their organs but simply make their feelings known if they do not want to donate."

The BMA believes that moving to a system of presumed consent, where it is assumed that people are willing to donate their organs after death unless they opt out, combined with other reforms to the transplant infrastructure, would play an important part in improving the organ donation system so that more lives can be saved.

1 The BMA supports a system of presumed consent with safeguards such as consulting the family to check for any known but unregistered objection. We also believe that there should be discretion not to proceed if it becomes evident that to do so would cause severe distress to the relatives.

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