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A LOOMING revolution in organ donation appears to show that memories of the Alder Hey scandal are fading - in Downing Street, at least.

As discussed in yesterday's Daily Post debate, the Government will tomorrow call for every major hospital to do more to persuade grieving families to allow their deceased relatives to save the lives of others.

It will back a network of bedside specialists, skilled in winning permission to use more hearts, lungs, kidneys and other vital organs for transplant.

But Gordon Brown immediately went further - supporting a switch to the Spanish model, which allows organs to be taken from dead patients without explicit consent.

Under the system of "presumed consent", everyone would be a donor unless they had specifically ruled it out, or their family members objected.

It is estimated the "opt-out" system would dramatically cut the terrible death toll of patients on the waiting list for a scarce organ - currently at least 900 people every year. In an interview, the Prime Minister spoke movingly of a close friend's narrow escape when a new heart was found when he might have only had hours left to live.

The chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, then insisted anyone willing to accept a transplant to save their own life should be ready to be a donor.

A "serious debate" on the controversial switch will be launched tomorrow, with a view to changing the law if support is widespread.

Now, no-one can doubt the best of motives lie behind the Prime Minister's move - but it does represent a U-turn.

Just four years ago, Mr Brown - and Health Secretary Alan Johnson - voted against such a change, on the grounds that there were better ways of increasing donations.

In 2004, it was impossible to make the case for "presumed consent", because of the shocking revelations about the activities of Alder Hey pathologist Professor Dick van Velzen.

The Redfern Inquiry had discovered the organs of 850 children, which were stripped during post-mortems and stored in jars in the Myrtle Street pathology lab.Similar scandals were uncovered at other hospitals around the country, triggering new laws to give relatives greater rights.

Indeed, rejecting "presumed consent", then health minister Rosie Winterton pointed explicitly to the "breakdown of trust" revealed by Alder Hey.

Whatever the desperate plight of people who will die without a transplant, Mr Brown must surely explain what has changed since?

ABOUR leftwinger Bob Marshall-Andrews's dream will come true this week, when he punches Tony Blair in the face.

Of course, it won't really be the former prime minister - just an actor depicting him on a

London stage - but I can think of a couple of Liverpool MPs who will be envious.

Allows organs to be taken without explicit consent
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 16, 2008
Previous Article:OBITUARY; Rod Allen.
Next Article:THOUGHT for the DAY.

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