Last Friday, Parliament pushed forward with plans to require people to actively “opt out” if they do not want their organs to be used for transplants after death. With some 6,500 patients on the waitlist for a transplant and over 400 dying from the shortage each year, the majority (254 according to the NHS) requiring a kidney transplant, any step to shorten wait-times and save lives should be welcomed. According to Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, the bill could save up to 500 lives a year.
Yet an opt-out system is no panacea. In Wales, the number of deceased donors actually fell after an opt-out system was put in place. While Sweden, which has had a system of presumed consent for over 20 years, has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in Europe. In part, this is because families have the final say. But it is also the result of higher stroke survival rates and fewer traffic fatalities reducing the number of organs available for transplant. One morbid study found that in US states without motorcycle helmet requirements, one in three motorcycle deaths saved a life. Chancellor Philip Hammond is right to push for the accelerated roll-out of safe driverless cars, but with the end of drunk driving on the horizon, increasing the number of living donors is becoming a major imperative for healthcare systems worldwide.
Originally appeared in CapX