AT A GLANCE: Controversial organ donor push launched

The Lowdown: Gordon Brown has thrown his weight behind a plan that would allow doctors to remove the organs of dead people unless they have previously stipulated otherwise.

 It is a principle known as 'presumed consent' and the Prime Minister launched a charm offensive around it in the pages of last weekend's Sunday Telegraph.

IS THIS A MAJOR PROBLEM?
At present in the UK, you must be a card-carrying donor, and supplies of organs are dwindling. Although 14.9m people are on the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR), thousands of people are waiting for transplants and around 1,000 still die each year for lack of a suitable organ. As a nation, donor take-up lags behind the US and that of European countries such as Spain.

WHAT IS THE HOOK FOR ALL THIS?
The Department of Health's organ donation taskforce was due to report on its ideas for creating more donors this week. A variety of papers and news bulletins this week reported on Brown's remarks and The Observer last Sunday even launched an editorial campaign, Donor For Life, which is being run from the newsdesk.

SO, WHAT ARE THE MAIN COMMS CHALLENGES FOR BROWN?
Allowing the state to 'commandeer' body parts has a nasty ring to it, whatever the assurances are that patients' families will be able to opt out. The memory of hospital scandals during the 1990s at Alder Hey in Liverpool and at Bristol Royal Infirmary, in which children's organs were retained without consent, in some cases after operations had gone wrong, is still relatively fresh.

ANY SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET?
Brown voted against such plans a few years ago and critics will wonder what has changed. There was also some divine intervention from the Bishop of Southwark last week, who called for a greater public debate before any new law is brought in.

AND WHAT DO BODIES SUCH AS UK TRANSPLANT THINK?
As it is part of the NHS, UK Transplant's role is to maintain the status quo. 'We do not have a view on the debate,' a spokesman told PRWeek. That is the reason its latest comms programme - My Life, My Gift - is a direct appeal to people to join the ODR, rather than campaigning for presumed consent. Freepost registration forms are being sent to 11.6 million UK households in a bid to increase take-up.

Further information www.dh.gov.uk

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