Relatives lose right to block organ donations in UK
LONDON (Reuters) – Families will lose the right to block
their relatives’ wish to donate their organs under reforms,
which come into force on Friday.
Currently families can stop doctors from taking their loved
ones’ organs even if they carried a donor card. About one in 10
planned donations is blocked at present.
“There is a critical shortage of donated organs,” said
Chris Rudge, Managing Director of UK Transplant, the NHS
department that runs Britain’s organ donation system. “The
wishes of the deceased must be put first.”
Doctors have been told to urge families to change their
minds if they try to stop the planned organ donation. “We know
that in most cases families will agree to donation if they know
(that) was their loved one’s wish,” Rudge added.
The Human Tissue Act was drawn up after the organ scandal
at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital. Hundreds of babies’ organs
were removed without their parents’ consent between 1988 and
1996. A similar organ retention scandal at the Bristol Royal
Infirmary sparked calls for action.
Under the new law, it will be an offence to remove and
store human tissue without permission in England, Wales and
Northern Ireland. Anyone found guilty could be fined or jailed
for three years.
It will also be illegal to remove and test genetic material
A new body, the Human Tissue Authority, will regulate the
removal, storage, use and disposal of organs. “People will be
reassured that their wishes expressed while they were alive are
now more likely to be followed,” said HTA Chief Executive
Health Minister Rosie Winterton said the reforms were a
“huge milestone,” while the Royal College of Pathologists said
it hoped the changes would help restore public confidence in