Thursday, October 1, 2009

GPs to ask for donor consent

Guidance aims to stem transplant supply shortage, doctors 'uneasy' at having to broach sensitive issue

The NHS hopes more patients and their families pick up organ donor application leaflets. The NHS hopes more patients and their families pick up organ donor application leaflets.

LONDON - Doctors in the United Kingdom will be told to routinely ask dying patients and their relatives about organ donation in a controversial move that is intended to help prevent 1,000 people a year dying because of the National Health Service's chronic shortage of body parts.

New guidance for doctors, being finalised by the General Medical Council (GMC), will for the first time make it part of their duty to instigate conversations about the possibility of retrieving someone's organs after their death.

At the moment, it is down to individual doctors whether or not to discuss the matter with patients and their families.

At present 1,000 people a year die because of the shortage of body parts.

"As a doctor, it could be one of the most difficult conversations you could ever have, but there is no doubt that the more doctors and patients have conversations about organ donation the more organs will be donated," said GMC senior policy adviser Sharon Burton.

The move is proving to be a controversial one as the GMC wants all the UK's practising doctors, and not just those who deal with dying patients in hospitals, to raise the subject with patients who might be suitable donors.

Ms Burton said that the country's 56,000 GPs should explore the potential for organ donation with patients who have recently been diagnosed with either a terminal condition, such as cancer, motor neurone disease, or an illness which could result in their sudden death.

The number of seriously ill people on the transplant waiting list has risen from 5,700 in 2004 to more than 8,000, mainly due to the ageing population and growing number of diabetics.

Dr Tony Calland, of the British Medical Association's medical ethics committee, said: "While we are very keen to see the number of organs available for transplantation increased, in no way would we want to cause any additional distress to patients who are already suffering from fatal conditions." THE GUARDIAN

From TODAY, World – Wednesday, 02-Sep-2009