UK: Organs removed without consent after IT blunder

Patrick Hennessy and Laura Donnelly report:

The records of 800,000 people were affected by an error that meant their wishes about the use of their organs after death were wrongly recorded.

An investigation has found that 45 of those for whom wrong records were stored have since died – and in approximately 20 cases organs were taken where consent had not been given.


After detecting the fault last year, NHS Blood and Transplant, which holds the organ donation register, was able to correct 400,000 of the flawed records. But 400,000 more people will shortly be contacted to be told that the wrong information may be held about them, and asked to provide consent again.

Until fresh consent is obtained, organs will not be taken from any of those people in the event of death.

The error occurred in 1999, when data held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, which includes a request for consent in applications for a driving licence, was transferred to the organ registry.

The mistake came to light when NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) wrote letters to new donors thanking them for joining the register, and outlining what they had agreed to donate. Respondents wrote back to say the information was wrong.

A spokesman for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We are taking it very seriously and are urgently investigating the situation.”

Read more in the Telegraph.

These types of mistakes make it very difficult for the public to trust the government with databases of sensitive information.

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