'Opt out' system could solve donor organ shortage, says researcher

October 31, 2008
Dr. John Troyer joined the Center for Death and Society at the University of Bath in September. Credit: Nic Delves-Broughton, University of Bath

A system of presumed consent for organ donation - where people have to opt out of donating their organs when they die - is the best way to tackle a growing waiting list for transplant.

That is the opinion of Dr John Troyer, an expert in organ donation and the illegal trade of body parts, who has recently joined the University of Bath's Centre for Death & Society.

There are more than 7,500 patients in the UK currently on the waiting list for organ donations.
Whilst nearly 16 million people in the UK, a quarter of the population, are registered as organ donors, bereaved families have the final say as to whether the organs of their loved ones are used in a transplant. This can lead to delays and can sometimes mean that the deceased person's organs are not used.

Dr John Troyer, who started a RCUK fellowship at the University in September, said: "In the UK we currently have an 'opt in' system of organ donation, where donors can register their consent for their organs to be used after their death.

"I believe a better alternative to this would be an 'opt out' or so-called presumed consent system where organs are used unless the person has specified their wish otherwise. This would encourage people to talk to their loved ones about donating their organs when they die and could have a real impact on the huge waiting list."

Dr Troyer says there is currently an illegal global trade in most body parts, with teeth, nails and bones being sold on the black market to be used as pharmaceutical products and skin being used to treat burns victims.

Organs such as kidneys are also being sold by living donors for large sums of money, with organs from the third world sometimes being used for first world patients who are desperate for a life-saving operation.

Some experts are calling for the selling of organs to be regulated rather than outlawed, to try and increase organ donation and to ensure a fair price to donors and their families. However, Dr Troyer believes this would be a dangerous step to take.

He said: "The reasoning behind regulating the organ trade is that by increasing the domestic supply of organs, the trade on the black market could be reduced.

"Another suggestion is that, instead of cash, families of deceased potential donors could be offered incentives to allow organ donation such as health insurance, funeral expenses or a gift to a charity.

"I believe that organ donation should remain altruistic – like blood donation – with the choice to opt out if preferred. This would make a big difference to the number of organs available and reduce the demand on the black market. It will also reduce the exploitation of poor people who sell their organs and endanger their health because they are desperate for money."

"Currently, the US has central organ database that matches available organs to patients on the waiting list. Whilst the UK has a national register of potential donors, there is no fast and easy way for doctors to check which organs are available."

He added: "Discussing death and dying is always going to be a taboo subject. The British are typically uncomfortable discussing death – the only time people seem to want to talk about it is around Halloween!

"My father was in funeral industry so I grew up around dead bodies, which probably explains why I was drawn to studying the field I do.

"But having my background I almost feel it's my obligation to start the debate and get people thinking about the difficult issues surrounding death and dying."

Earlier this year, ministers backed proposals to overhaul the donation system, although presumed consent was not amongst the proposals. However, over the next two weeks, the Welsh Assembly is holding a series of public debates to discuss the need to introduce a system of presumed consent.

Source: University of Bath

Explore further: Organ donation clubs aren't the solution to transplant shortages

Related Stories

Organ donation clubs aren't the solution to transplant shortages

August 15, 2017
Anyone in the UK, of any age, can sign the Organ Donor Register, and give permission for their organs and tissue to be donated after death. How you register your wishes depends on where you live: in Northern Ireland and England, ...

What's the best strategy to increase living kidney donation?

August 17, 2017
A new analysis indicates that few strategies to increase living kidney donation have been evaluated effectively; however, educational strategies targeted to recipients and their family and friends have the best evidence of ...

Study of nervous system cells can help to understand degenerative diseases

August 18, 2017
The results of a new study show that many of the genes expressed by microglia differ between humans and mice, which are frequently used as animal models in research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Moving beyond nudges to improve health and health care policies

August 16, 2017
With countries around the world struggling to deliver quality health care and contain costs, a team of behavioral economists led by Carnegie Mellon University's George Loewenstein believes it's time to apply recent insights ...

Lag in brain donation hampers understanding of dementia in blacks

August 11, 2017
The question came as a shock to Dorothy Reeves: Would she be willing to donate her husband's brain for research?

Yemen's blood bank faces threat of closure within days

August 12, 2017
Yemen's blood bank has sent out an urgent appeal to anyone who will listen, as war and a blockade on the capital may force the centre to close within a week.

Recommended for you

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2008
"Opt-out" and "presumed-consent' are just PC for "what you won't surrender, we will take from you".

If there is any right worth preserving it is a person's right to his/her own body and all its parts.

Opt-out proponents are thieves. We should always oppose opt-out schemes.
not rated yet Oct 31, 2008
In the US we have opt-in via a Drivers' license checkoff, but it's worthless because MDs won't use it for approval to harvest organs. Why should a dead person "care" if organs are used to extend someone else's life?
3 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2008
US MDs won't use it for approval to harvest organs

With my US drivers license at age 15, there was clear reservations against being a donor.

My early vision was of a system working for recipient imperatives, by overriding proper diagnose and treatment as officials may standby with extracting utensils waiting for donors to die.

At an early age it was president Nixon on US TV, incriminating himself in public and getting away with it, that taught me any official post was potentially lawless.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 02, 2008
The "Opt Out" baloney should be against the law...
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2008
Imo not allowing someone to use your organs to help them survive once you're dead is one of the most selfish acts you can possibly commit.
not rated yet Nov 08, 2008
I dont know if i fully agree with the opt out system. I do get cross when i hear others saying that its just the powers that be ordering us what we have to do..as this is not the case with the opt out. Whereas now you have to registrer yourself (opt in)if the opt out came into force you would then have the option to remove yourself from the list (opt out)
This is possible as everyone will know that they are automatically added onto a list so its up to them to call and remove themselves. Not all who agree with donating their organs after their death get around to registering due to busy lives etc. This way every one is added making more numbers on the register but the option is there to take yourself off....Wheres the problem??
Before anyone replies to me about rights and wrongs and what i would do if a loved one of mine was in need of an urgent transplant please just visit http://www.thelew...tion.org

This is a registered charity set up in memory of my beautiful son Lewis who was in need of an urgent heart transplant., The call we prayed for never arrived and we had to turn off our sons life support. Lewis was two years and eight months of age.
We miss him so much, we blame a system that is not set up properly, our son would now be seven and looking forward to Christmas. We know we cannot change the past, we cannot have our son back but through his name and charity we can make a difference to the future.
Just think on all of those who think o'h it will never happen to a member of my family, it does and it can. You then will be praying that someone somewhere tok the time out of their busy hectic life to register, chances are that unless a new system or a change comes about you to will not get the call you pray for.
There is no greater pain than having to sit helplessly by the side of a loved ones intensive care bed and wait, whether they are an adult or child, i know i have been there.
Talk to your family, inform them of your wishes, dont just sit back and think it wont happen to me.
Karen Prior.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.