Health Secretary calls for public to put aside the taboo of organ donation to save thousands of lives

Health Secretary calls for public to put aside the taboo of organ donation to save thousands of lives Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on people to overcome a "fatal reluctance" to talk about organ donation with relatives, as he launches a major public consultation on plans to introduce a new opt-out system.

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that in the past year around 1,100 families in the UK decided not to allow organ donation because they were unsure, or did not know whether their relatives would have wanted to donate an organ or not.

Every day three patients die needing a new organ.

In October, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will change to an 'opt-out' system, shifting the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation, in a bid to save the lives of the 6,500 people currently waiting for a transplant.

Currently, 80 percent of people say they would be willing to donate their organs but only 36 percent register to become an organ donor. It is hoped that changing the system to an opt-out model of consent will mean more viable organs become available for use on the NHS, potentially saving thousands of lives.

With the launch of the consultation today, Mr Hunt is starting an open conversation about opt-out organ donation.

Over the next three months, the Government is asking for comments on the defining issues of the new system

  • How much say should families have in their deceased relative's decision to donate their organs?
  • When would exemptions to 'opt-out' be needed, and what safeguards will be necessary?
  • How might a new system affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

Only about half of adults on the current organ register say they have discussed their wishes with a relative, with people from black backgrounds among the least likely to have had an open conversation.

This is significant as only about six percent of deceased donors are black or asian, meaning that these patients are waiting six months longer for a suitable kidney transplant than white patients.

Ciara from Crystal Palace, who was listed for a second kidney transplant in August 2016, said:

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said:


Fiona Loud, Director of Policy at Kidney Care UK, said:

Dr John Chisholm, British Medical Association, Medical Ethics Committee Chair, said:

Orin Lewis, Chief Executive of Afro-Caribbean Leukemia Trust & Co-Chair of National BAME Transplant Alliance:

Millie Banerjee, Chair of NHS Blood and Transplant, said:


The consultation will run for twelve weeks concluding on 6 March, after which a Government response will be published.

The consultation can be found here: