Matthew has been pressing the Government to delay the implementation of national guidelines on organ donation until after the restrictions of the Coronavirus national emergency have been lifted.
Legislation passed last year allows for consent to organ donation in England to be deemed to have been given by a potential adult organ donor before their death unless they have expressly stated that they did not wish to be an organ donor or an exception applies. This is often referred to as an “opt-out” system of consent as people may “opt-out” of becoming an organ donor on the premise that they do not consent.
Matthew spoke in the Second Reading of the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill in February 2018 and reminded the Government that while:
“... 80% of British society support organ donation ... 20% do not. I want to speak on behalf of that 20% to ensure that they are carried along with the debate, rather than left behind.”
Having received Royal Assent last year, in February the Government announced its intention that deemed consent should become legal in England on 20 May of this year. Since that time, Matthew has been seeking reassurances from Ministers that safeguards are introduced and respected so that people who do not want to donate their organs are not inadvertently included.
In response to a Parliamentary Question from Matthew, the Government has conceded that conversations which people need to have with their friends, family and relatives cannot happen in an appropriate fashion while social distancing restrictions remain in place. The Government has confirmed that “In reality, this means that it is unlikely that transplants will proceed under deemed consent during the current Coronavirus pandemic because people are distanced and communication between relevant parties is more challenging.”
Matthew said: “It is admirable that many people make a valuable gift of their organs after their death, but for others it is not acceptable for personal, religious or other reasons - and that should be respected. During such a difficult time as the Coronavirus pandemic has presented, people are not in a position to make these sort of decisions and I am pleased the Government has recognised this. The scheme will still go ahead but later in the year when everyone will have an opportunity to express their wishes.”