Organ donor boost options pondered
Restarting the hearts of people who have recently died should be one of the options considered for boosting the number of organ donors, according to a new report.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said more needed to be done to increase the number of organs, including considering "difficult concepts" such as restarting hearts so they can be used in transplants.
Other options include using organs from higher-risk patients such as the elderly, and developing guidelines for using the hearts of babies aged under three months who have no chance of surviving.
The BMA said all these options could boost donor rates in the current "opt-in" system, where people are asked to join the organ donor register.
The BMA remains in favour of an opt-out system, currently being considered in Wales, where a patient is presumed to give consent for their organs to be used unless they have expressly said they do not want this.
There are more than 7,600 people currently waiting for a transplant in the UK, with more who need a transplant but are too ill to go on the list.
The report said that although "good progress" has been made towards a target to boost organ donor rates by 50% by 2013, it will be a "significant challenge" to achieve this. It added: "Whether or not the target of 50% is reached, people will still be dying unnecessarily while waiting for an organ transplant."
Last month, Tim Statham, chief executive of the National Kidney Federation, said too many people were dying because of poor strategy around boosting donor rates - and argued the 50% target will be missed.
The new study, from the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee, said that as "doctors it is difficult to see our patients dying and suffering when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant".
Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee, said: "We are at a crossroads in terms of public policy. As a society we need to decide whether we should accept that we have done all we can or whether we should move forward, cautiously, and look at other options for increasing the number of donors"