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Nursing staff support organ donation opt-out law

28 Mar 2018

The RCN has published its new position on consent for organ and tissue donation after death, stating qualified support for an opt-out system.

Close up of a trolley in an A&E department

This means the RCN supports an opt-out system of consent so long as certain safeguards, supports and resources are in place. These include limiting the opt-out to adults, putting in place awareness and education programmes in advance of any changes and engaging with families in the process.

This follows a UK-wide consultation with members. A significant number responded to an online survey, with 71% broadly in favour of an opt-out system. The results were reviewed by the RCN Professional Nursing Committee before agreeing the new position.

Committee Chair Melanie Johnson said: “The matter of organ and tissue donation is a sensitive and complex one, but the response from RCN members clearly supports the move to an opt-out system with conditions attached. The survey shows our members understand the issues at play in attempts to increase donations, and with almost 90% saying we need more donors there is still much to do.”

The RCN surveyed members in all UK countries for its first consultation on the issue for almost a decade. In each country of the UK, a clear majority of members supported an opt-out.

Legislation to introduce opt-outs in England and Scotland are being debated over 2018. A private member’s Bill in Westminster, which received initial parliamentary support in February, would bring England into line with Wales where a soft opt-out system of consent for organ and tissue donation was introduced in 2015. Scotland is expected to introduce similar legislation in the next few months. Legislation to introduce an opt-out in Northern Ireland failed in 2016, but work is underway to increase donation rates in other ways.

Before any opt-out system is introduced, governments must increase investment in the number of specialist nurses in organ donation, the RCN Professional Nursing Committee stressed.

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Page last updated - 15/06/2018