Department of Health and Social Care
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ORGAN TRANSPLANT ALLOCATION RULES MADE MORE FLEXIBLE FOR EXCEPTIONAL CASES

ORGAN TRANSPLANT ALLOCATION RULES MADE MORE FLEXIBLE FOR EXCEPTIONAL CASES

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 29 March 2010

Organ donors will in future be allowed to donate their organs to a family member or close friend in need of a transplant under new rules, Health Minister Ann Keen announced today.

New guidance for transplant teams published today sets out that in some exceptional cases people will be able to request that their, or a family members, organs are given to a family member or close friend after they die in cases where there is someone in need of a new organ.

This will give transplant teams greater flexibility in the allocation of organ donations, particularly where a family member intended to donate an organ, such as a kidney, to a person but sadly died before they could.

Health Minister Ann Keen said:

“This change is greatly welcomed, as it will bring much needed clarity to what is a sad and difficult time for the family of a deceased donor and a family member or close friend who could benefit from donation.

“Although requests to allocate an organ donated after death are likely to be rare, we want to ensure that the system is as fair as it can be and the wishes of organ donors and their families are taken into account. We hope these latest changes encourage more families and close friends to talk about their wishes before it is too late.”

Chris Rudge National Clinical Director for Transplantation, said:

“With this change in policy, a significant balance has been struck between the wishes of those who agree to donate their organs unconditionally and the need to allocate organs on the basis of clinical need.

“This guidance, will bring clarity to what is a complex situation and give frontline staff the necessary support in working with the families of deceased donors and organ recipients, at a time that is stressful for both parties.”

Organ allocation is subject to clinical priority and this will not change under these new measures. People on the Super Urgent Heart or Liver lists or those who will not live beyond 72 hours without a transplant will still have priority over any request to donate an organ to family or close friends. But where there are no appropriate candidates on heart or liver urgent lists, then it will be possible for the organ to be given to a family member or close friend, as long as it is clinical match.

Frontline staff will if they need additional advice be able to refer cases to the Requested Allocation Oversight Group, who will provide expert guidance where needed.

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, the special health authority responsible for the allocation of organs across the UK, said:

“This guidance supports the well-established donation process in which respecting the wishes of donors, in consultation with their relatives, is an important part.

“This guidance will enable us to consider, as we always do, what the donor wanted but also to take into account the health and wellbeing of a sick patient who is known to them.

"With around 10,000 people in need of an organ transplant and an average of three people dying every day because of the shortage, there remains an urgent need for people to consider donation in general, join the NHS Organ Donor Register and to discuss their donation wishes with their relatives so that these can be confirmed when the time comes."

We have also today published guidance for Coroners and transplant teams aimed at promoting better understanding at all levels of the processes involved in organ retrieval and the necessary legal requirements for coroner intervention after some deaths. This will provide practical guidance to coroners and donor coordinators when agreeing whether or not a donation can proceed. It is hoped that this guidance will prevent organ wastage and lead to a greater availability of viable organs.

Notes to Editors

1) This change to the organ donation guidance will affect the UK. More information on the guidance can be found at the following link

http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/index.htm

2) This new policy will come into effect immediately.

3) The Requested Allocation Oversight Group will consist of 15 people, drawn from a number of organisation such as NHS Blood and Transplant, the Human Tissue Authority, the transplant community and patient groups and will be chaired by the Associate Medical Director for Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant.

4) For more Info on how to become a donor - http://www.uktransplant.org.uk/ukt/how_to_become_a_donor/how_to_become_a_donor.jsp.

Contacts:

Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221
NDS.DH@coi.gsi.gov.uk

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