The UK Transplant, which carried out a two-year audit, said that certain families were refusing to give consent even if the deceased person was on the organ donor register or carried a donor card. An audit of all deaths in intensive care units across the UK found that 41 per cent of families denied consent for their relatives' organs to be donated.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at all deaths in 341 intensive care units in 284 hospitals across the UK. The researchers at UK Transplant, of the NHS's organ-matching organisation, said that UK has a serious shortage of organs for transplantation, as does almost every country. The study looked at the possible number of donations from deaths in 284 hospitals throughout the UK. The maximum achievable potential donor rate during the two-year study period was 23.2 donations per million populations per year.
Families of 94% of patients who could have been organ donors were approached for consent to donation during the study. But it was found that, but 41 per cent denied consent. The researchers compared this against the rate of about 30% in the early 1990s. Their reasons included that they did not want surgery on the body, they were not sure if the patient would have agreed or that the relatives were divided.
The study found that the refusal rates for families of potential donors from ethnic minorities were 70%, twice that for white potential donors (35%), but the age and sex of the potential donor did not affect the refusal rate.
The study concluded that when the Human Tissue Act comes into force in September 2006, "the wishes and consent of the individual will be paramount". This, the study explained may be in time to address the aspect and emphasises of the benefits of increased registrations on the NHS organ donor register.