Number of organ donors increases by 50% but relatives should not have the last word, says head of Government taskforce

125 families over-ruled the wishes of their relatives last year and refused to allow donation

The practice of organ donation should be changed to ensure that relatives cannot over-ride the wishes of individuals who have elected to become donors before their death, the head of a Government taskforce said.

The number of deceased donors reached 1,212 in 2012/13, and their organs transformed the lives of 3,100 recipients, according to NHS Blood and Transplant. "The progress made has been phenomenal," said Elizabeth Buggins, chair of the UK Organ Donation Taskforce.

But 125 families over-ruled the wishes of their relatives in 2011-12 and refused to allow the donation, despite their names appearing on the NHS Organ Donor register.

Ms Buggins said that it should be mandatory on doctors to refer a potential donor to the NHS Transplant service if their name appeared on the NHS Organ Donor register, the list of individuals who have volunteered to donate their organs after death.

While the law does not give relatives the power to prevent a donation, in practice doctors are reluctant to press the issue in the face of a grieving family who are opposed.

Ms Buggins was speaking as NHS Blood and Transplant announced that it had achieved a 50 per cent increase in deceased organ donors, matching the target set by the task force in 2008.

Ms Buggins said the need for organs continued to outstrip the supply. "People are still suffering and dying waiting for a transplant. Organ donation has yet to become a routine and accepted part of UK society."

The proposed change in the handling of relatives opposed to donation is among 40 recommendations aimed at boosting the supply of organs, including changes to the hospital tariff to "reward best practice" and the withholding of merit awards from consultants who fail to refer potential organ donors.

Ms Buggins said: "Health professionals are very reluctant to do anything that upsets people, particularly when there is a bereavement. They have always supported the family to make the decision that is right for them but they have not done enough to honour the wishes of the person who has died. "

She said that during focus groups held by the task force round the country, members of the public had expressed outrage at the idea that relatives could over-ride the wishes of individuals when they were not in a position to insist.

"Many were angry and horrified. It is a matter of shifting the balance. We don't want a cavalier attitude taken by professionals to the views of relatives. I am sure that won't happen but we need to do more to help families feel proud of what [donors] have chosen to do."

One donor can help as many as eight recipients with solid organs and more with donations of tissue. Ms Buggins said she had seen the comfort that donation could bring to relatives in their distress.

"I have met relatives of donors who have kept letters from the recipients in their jacket pocket for years. It made them feel better," she said.

On changes to the NHS tariff, and to consultant merit awards to incentivise referral of potential donors, she said the proposal had been made in response to wide variation in referral rates round the country.

"The idea was to encourage doctors to show that it is entirely do-able. But the nuances of that would require careful thought. There would need to be a lot of work to ensure any system did not undermine public confidence."

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patient's Association, said relatives should not be permitted to block donations. "This is an issue that is very personal to the individual. It is not the right of the relative. Just as a family wouldn't attempt to amend someone's Will after their death, it seems like a violation of an individual's rights to try and do the same with organ donation.

"There will of course be exceptional cases, such as if the patient has severe mental health problems, or lacks a capacity to judge – but these cases are few and far between."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable