Intended for healthcare professionals


Presumed consent

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 29 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1490

If this is introduced, people will have to have all relevant information

  1. David J Hill, Anaesthetist,
  2. Tony C Palmer, Veterinary neuropathologist,
  3. David W Evans, Retired physician (
  1. The Old Post Office, Eltisley, Cambridgeshire PE19 4TG
  2. 12 Adams Road, Cambridge CB3 9AD
  3. 27 Gough Way, Cambridge CB3 9LN
  4. The Baker's Chest, Hartburn, Morpeth NE61 4JB

    EDITOR—Beecham reports that the BMA wants to start a debate on presumed consent to organ donation.1 Ethically, consent should be informed, whether it is expressed or presumed. Presumed consent to organ donation takes for granted that everyone who has not registered an objection consents to their organs being taken for the benefit of others when they are brain stem dead and that they understand what this state is. It is not, however, death as ordinarily understood. Nor is it “brain death” as defined in various parts of the world. Its status is controversial, not least because claims that, for example, it invariably leads to death within a few hours or days are no longer tenable.2

    Under our present system, willingness to donate organs is a positive offer. People …

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