New organ donation law saves lives

Soft opt-out system has increased number of organ donations in Wales

More lives are being saved through organ donations thanks to groundbreaking legislation, says the Welsh government.

A new law which came into force in Wales in December last year, allows people to opt in or out of being an organ donor. If they do nothing, are over 18 years, and have lived in the country for more than 12 months, they are regarded as having consented to organ donation.

Figures show that of the 31 people who donated their organs between 1 December 2015 and 31 May 2016, ten had their consent deemed by default because they had not registered a decision to either opt in or out of becoming an organ donor.

In total, 60 organs were transplanted during this period, 32 of which were from people who had neither opted in nor out.

Chronic shortage

In the same period in 2014-15, 23 people donated their organs, while in 2013-14 over the same six-month period, the number of people who donated organs was 21.

The new legislation was introduced to address the chronic shortage of organ donations in Wales.

Cabinet secretary for health, wellbeing and sport Vaughan Gething, said: ‘I am extremely proud that Wales now leads the way by being the first nation in the UK to move to a soft opt-out system of consent. I fully expect that the new system will create a step change in consent for organ donation in Wales. The early indications are that this certainly is the case.’

Opt-out policy

NHS Blood and Transplant organ donation specialist nurse for the south Wales region Lisa Morgan, said: ‘I think that certainly the legislation has put organ donation on the agenda. We no longer see people who are surprised when we discuss donation with them, and 74% of the population is now aware they live in a country with an opt-out policy.’

Lisa Morgan

Ms Morgan said that specialist nurses in north and south Wales have had in-depth training to help them understand the new legal framework.

‘It makes the conversations with families easier; they are aware that if their family members did not make a decision to opt out, that by doing nothing they have made the decision to be supportive of organ donation.’

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