Fight for Sight response to the organ donation opt-out system proposal

12 December 17

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Press Office

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The Department of Health has today [12 December 2017] launched a major public consultation on organ donation, proposing a new opt-out system. The hope is that a change to the system could save thousands of lives, as every day three patients die needing a new organ.

Fight for Sight, the UK’s leading eye research charity, is joining the call for people to overcome their reluctance to talk about organ donation as there is a shortage of donor eyes for transplantation in the UK.

Currently there is an opt-in system which, in effect, limits the amount of donors as many people do not actively register to become an organ donor, with 80 percent of people saying they would be willing to donate their organs but only 36 percent registering to do so. It is hoped that by changing the system to an opt-out model of consent, more viable organs will become available for use on the NHS.

In 2016/17, 2,751 corneas were donated[1] yet there is an estimated deficit of approximately 500 corneas per year, with nine out of ten “restricted” donors in the UK not wanting their corneas donated. A restricted donor is when someone hasn’t selected “all” as an option when registering to donate organs and tissue.

Under the current system, Fight for Sight is urging existing and potential organ donors not to restrict their donation and to agree to donate their corneas. Corneal transplants are a vital treatment for certain corneal conditions, such as keratoconus and Fuchs dystrophy.

Fight for Sight is planning to respond to the Department’s consultation proposing an opt-out system. Having looked at the evidence from the success of the change to an opt-out system for organ donation in Wales, introduced two years ago, Fight for Sight will be supporting the change to an opt-out system.

Michele Acton, the charity’s Chief Executive, said: “Fight for Sight has long been at the forefront of addressing the need for corneal transplants, having helped establish the UK Corneal Transplant Service in 1983. This service has now helped over 75,000 people continue to enjoy the world around them. However, there is a yearly deficit between the amount of corneal tissue that is donated and those that need these transplants. Fight for Sight supports a move to an opt-out system, as evidence shows this improves donation rates.”

The Department of Health consultation, the deadline for which is 6 March 2018, can be found here: https://engage.dh.gov.uk/organdonation/

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