New 'deemed consent' law for organ donation comes into force in Wales

Patients over 18 who have lived for at least a year in Wales will from today be deemed to have given consent for organs to be retained for transplant following their deaths unless they specifically opt out of the scheme

The first country in the UK to change its organ donation policy to one which patients must opt out of rather than into begins its new approach today (December 1).

Wales’ new post-mortem policy – which was opposed by RCN Wales – will assume consent unless otherwise instructed and applies to anyone aged 18 or over who has lived in the country for more than a year.

It is believed such a switch could lead to a 25% increase in the number of organ donors after figures showed 14 people died while waiting for transplants in Wales in 2014/15.

The RCN’s governing council voted in 2009 to support the current ‘opt in’ system and RCN Wales felt there was no reason for departing from that stance.

It fears nurses could find themselves in a conflict of interest where their role caring for dying patients might be perceived as secondary to their role in retrieval of organs for transplantation.

At present there are 224 people on the list, including eight children, compared with 209 at the end of March 2014.

According to research by the Welsh assembly 69% of people are aware of the changes, which were first discussed back in 2012.

Health and social services minister Mark Drakeford said: ‘This is a day when we take a groundbreaking step in Wales, which will save lives.

‘The change to a soft opt-out system for organ donation will deliver a revolution in consent. Organ donation saves lives and increasing the rate of organ donation allows us to save more lives.

'Over the past 20 years a great deal has been achieved in improving medical practice in the field of organ donation, but if we’re going to make further progress we need a leap in consent rates and that is why we have changed the law.

‘I hope this change will prompt people to talk with their loved ones about their organ donation wishes.’

A similar law currently being debated by members of the Scottish parliament is being opposed by RCN Scotland for the same reasons as RCN Wales, click here for more details

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