Bottomley dismisses 'opt-out' organ plan

VIRGINIA BOTTOMLEY, the Secretary of State for Health, yesterday ruled out an opt-out scheme under which surgeons would remove organs for transplant unless they were told it was against the dead patient's wishes.

Last month a government advisory committee said the system was the only way to relieve 'the chronic shortfall' of donors in Britain. The number of organs available for transplant is falling; in 1991, the last year for which figures are available, it fell by 8 per cent. Hundreds of people on waiting lists die before an organ is found.

But speaking at the launch of the first television advertising campaign on organ donation, Mrs Bottomley said an opt-out scheme would be counter productive and cause medical and legal problems.

Instead, she argued that the new campaign would get families talking about organ donation. If a person has signed a donor card then technically his or her organs may be used but in practice, the next of kin must also agree. About one-third of those approached by a doctor do not give their consent, according to Mrs Bottomley.

'The real issue is to make it (organ donation) commonplace and normal,' she said. 'I hope that by bringing it into the home during peak evening viewing we will trigger a discussion . . . Then should tragedy strike, relatives will be prepared to carry out their loved one's wishes.'

A voluntary donor consent box is to be incorporated on all new driving licences. Such a scheme was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1991. Kenneth Carlisle, minister for roads and traffic, said yesterday that he believed it had been successful although no data was available. In a report last month to the Cabinet Office, the Advisory Council on Science and Technology (Acost) said that past measures - such as donor cards and advertising - had failed and radical actions were needed.

Only 30 per cent of the population carries cards and of the transplants carried out in 1990, none came from a person carrying a donor card. Successful opt-out schemes have been introduced in Belgium, France and Austria.

Dr Peter Doyle, chairman of Acost, yesterday welcomed the new campaigns but said that opt- out was the only permanent solution to the problem. 'There are legal and ethical problems but other countries have not allowed them to be a barrier; they have been faced and overcome.' The year after an opt-out system was introduced in Belgium, the number of available organs doubled; France now does more transplants per head of population than any other country.

About 5,000 transplants are carried out here each year; in 1991 there were 2,730 solid organ transplants - kidney, heart, liver, lung or pancreas - of which 1,765 were kidneys. There are more than 5,000 people who need a solid organ at any one time and are unable to get one and the demand is growing. Another 500 people need corneas and others need tissues such as heart valves. Less than a fifth of possible recipients had a kidney transplant last year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea