Presumed consent in organ donation: is the duty finally upon us?

Lisa Cherkassky
European Journal of Health Law 2010, 17 (2): 149-64
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in presumed consent systems for organ donation. The U.K.'s Organ Donation (Presumed Consent and Safeguards) Bill of 2004 proposed a sweeping change in the law in the form of an opt-out system for the donation of cadaver organs. The Organ Donation Task-force in 2008 later examined the idea of presumed consent at length, before concluding that our current organ procurement system needs a radical overhaul. Most recently, the Organ Donation (Presumed Consent) Bill of 2009 ("the 2009 Bill") provided the most comprehensive proposal yet for an opt-out organ donation system in the United Kingdom. Is it now time to take this controversial issue seriously? If the 2009 Bill provides a window into the future, what practical and ethical difficulties will this new presumed consent legislation impart upon our current organ procurement system? This article will provide an overview of the previous attempts in the U.K. to implement an opt-out system for organ donation, before examining in detail the content of the 2009 Bill as a potential template for a new presumed consent law. Finally, some sweeping amendments to the 2009 Bill will be suggested, and it will be concluded that a new piece of legislation may change our national and international views of organ donation for the better.

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