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Families of the Dead no Longer Have the Last Say

Families of the dead who carried donor cards no longer have the last say concerning the removal of organs from their loved ones.// Tomorrow new laws will come into force that will make the deceased person’s wishes paramount.

Currently, even if people carry a donor card, their relatives can prevent doctors from harvesting their organs. About one in ten families have been reported to do so. The new laws have come into place as part of moves to tackle the chronic shortage of organ donors. Around 500 people a year die waiting for a transplant.

This change is expected to cause considerable anguish to relatives who do not wish to see their loved one go under the knife after death. In addition concerns that such a step would draw closer to the idea of presumed consent wherein people’s organs would be taken for donation unless they expressly opted out.

Besides this the new Human Tissue Act will also let people, while still alive, donate organs to people who are not relatives which in turn could lead to ‘swap’ transplants involving two pairs of strangers with compatible tissue types.

At present over 8,000 people in the UK need a transplant, but the organ shortage would mean that fewer than 3,000 are carried out each year.

Chris Rudge of UK Transplant, which provides organ matching and allocation services, said: ‘There is a critical shortage of donated organs and many more people could receive a life-saving transplant with the donor’s wishes being given priority.’

Adrian McNeill, chief executive of the Human Tissue Authority, the body set up to police the Act, said: ‘For the first time it is lawful for the deceased person’s wishes to take precedence over anyone else’s.

‘People will be reassured that their wishes expressed while they were alive are now more likely to be followed.’ Doctors in such cases are expected to reach an understanding with families. Doctors will be able to take organs only from peo
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