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Donation Ethics? Ethical Uncertainties in the Face of Deemed Consent for Organ Donation in the UK

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


In recent years, the UK government and NHS Blood and Transplant have introduced a number of policies, practices and processes all with the aim to increase the number of organs available for donation. In August 2018, the UK government announced a future change in the law surrounding consent for organ donation. After trialing an opt-out system for organ donation in Wales, it was rolled out to England in Spring 2020. The shift in policy means that people consent to donating their organs unless they register their decision to opt-out on the NHS organ donation register. The driver for the shift in policy are such claims that more organ donations will take place as a result of the opt-out policy, resulting in approximately 700 lives saved (Wise, 2018). However, what is not known is how healthcare professionals working on the frontline might experience such a change in policy, and to what extent they consider their practices and processes being influenced by such a shift. In this presentation, we will present findings based on 24 in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted in 2013 with clinicians and nurses across three wards (intensive care, theatre, and emergency) in one NHS Trust in the North West of England. Initial thematic coding of the interview transcripts has highlighted that healthcare professionals implicitly and explicitly queried how ‘ethical’ such an opt-out policy might be in practice. Healthcare professionals identified and constructed ethical uncertainties when discussing deemed consent for deceased organ donation, with particular reference to questioning how informed is the consent, and the family veto. We will also examine how healthcare professionals claim these ethical uncertainties can be eased (or not).

Event (Seminar)

TitleCritical Donation Studies
Date14/10/21 → …
Degree of recognitionInternational event