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Families of the Dead no Longer Have the Last Say

ple who have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register, are carrying a card or have given advance consent to medical staff. If a person has not made their wishes clear, their closest relative will still have the final say.

The British Medical Association said: ‘The BMA is deeply worried about the shortage of organs for transplants and the loss of life as a result. People should be able to decide what happens to their tissue or body after death and the BMA would encourage individuals to make that decision and talk to their relatives about their wishes.

‘If people have indicated their preferences their wishes should be respected. It would also help relatives at the very difficult time of bereavement.’

Annie Kiff-Wood, of Cruse Bereavement Care, said: ‘Most families would want to fulfill the wishes of their loved ones but organ donation often comes at the point of sudden traumatic death. When a family has had no time to deal with what has happened it can make them particularly anxious that a healthy body should not be interfered with at all. ‘This change will be incredibly difficult for some people but it does point to the need for all of us to discuss these matters with our families. It also points to the need for incredibly skilled hospital staff.’

According to Elizabeth Ward, president of the British Kidney Patients Association, the new law does not go far enough.

She said, ‘There is lots of tissue just lying in graveyards that could be used. What we need is an opt-out system.’

The new version of the Human Tissue Act also includes a major shake-up of the way organs and body parts are stored for research and other purposes. Anatomy schools, post-mortem services, research establishments that store tissue, and museums or other organizations putting on human body displays must now be licensed by the HTA.

Besides this doctors will have to obtain permission from patients ‘up front’ to hold on to organs rem
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