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UK changes policy to boost organ donor numbers

Drivers applying for new licenses in Britain will have to choose whether or not to become organ donors under a program announced Friday aimed at increasing the number of people registered.

Public health minister Anne Milton said about 27 percent of the British public are currently registered as donors, but that many more are willing to offer organs but never get around to registering.

The decision to add drivers to the registry unless they speficially opt out of the system follows a program in Illinois, which launched a donor registry in 2006 and saw the number of people willing to offer organs for transplant rise from 38 percent to 60 percent.

In Britain, people can register to become donors online, at a doctor's office or clinic and at a pharmacy chain. Currently, those applying for new licenses are asked if they want to opt in to the donor registry, but can also refuse to answer the question.

Milton said from July, those applying for a license will have to make a clear choice on whether or not to register.

"We hope that by prompting people into making a decision we can encourage more people to register," she said. "We also need people to think and talk about organ donation with their families so people know what family members want."

According to Britain's health ministry around 8,000 people in the U.K. are awaiting organ transplants.