Opt-out system called into question as 2017 sees record number of organ donors

There were 1,575 organ donors in the UK last year, an 11% increase on 2016. 

The figures come at a time when the UK and Scottish Governments are considering moving to an opt-out system of organ donation, something the Church has previously expressed opposition to when it responded to a Scottish Government’s consultation. 

The increase is, according to a BBC report, being attributed to a proactive approach and the introduction of specialist nurses across the NHS who support donor families and who ensure the proper coordination of organ donations. 

This investment in infrastructure was cited by the Church to be a key element of increasing organ donations and a more appropriate next step for government, rather than opting for an opt-out system where state ownership of organs is presumed and success is not guaranteed. Spain, arguably the world leader in organ donation, witnessed a significant increase in organ donations only after it invested in infrastructure, including a massive advertising campaign and appointing dedicated organ donation nurses in every hospital. 

Interestingly, Wales (the only part of the UK to have an opt-out system of organ donation) recorded no increases in organ donations in its first two years.

The Catholic Church acknowledges the need for more organs to be donated to allow those who are suffering the opportunity to enjoy a better quality of life. Indeed the Church sees organ donation after death as a ‘noble and meritorious act’ to be encouraged as an ‘expression of generous solidarity’. It is a gift and a sign of great love for one another. However, in order for this to be a true gift, it must be freely given and that is why the Church also teaches that ‘it is not morally acceptable if the donor or his/her proxy has not given explicit consent.’