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Six-month countdown to revolutionary organ donor law change in Wales

The six-month countdown until the organ donation law in Wales changes began yesterday.

As the clock ticks down to the revolutionary change, which aims to increase the number of organs available for transplantation, Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford is asking people in Wales to talk about organ donation and help raise awareness about the new law.

The new system – the first of its kind in the UK – will make it easier for people to make their organ donation wishes clear and could lead to a 25% increase in organ donation.

In 2014-15, 12 people in Wales died while waiting for a transplant.

There are currently 220 people on the transplant waiting list in Wales. Just over a third of the population (34%) are on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Teddy Houlston from Cardiff became Britain's youngest-ever organ donor last year. A newborn baby, who lived for less than two hours, his kidneys were then used to save an adult's life in Leeds.

His mother Jess Evans said:

“Knowing that part of your loved one is living on in someone else is comforting. If it stops any other person going through the same thing then this can only be good. Teddy’s life had a very important role to play. Unless you have been through the same thing or know someone affected it’s hard to understand how important organ donation is.”

His father MikeHoulston, added:

“We want Teddy’s story to inspire others and help break any taboos people might still hold regarding organ donation. Organ donation wasn’t prominent in my life growing up and while I was up for it I never got round to doing anything about it. I’m sure there are many more men like me who think the same!

“I want to spread the word as much as possible about how organ donation saves lives, but that we should all speak to each other about our wishes. Without that discussion it is a very difficult conversation to have when it comes out of the blue. Put simply, you should ask yourself the question ‘Would you take an organ if you needed it?’ Everyone would do so if the truth were told so we hope what Teddy did can educate people and prompt them to get talking.”

The new law will mean:

  • From December 1, people aged 18 and over who have lived in Wales for more than 12 months and who die in Wales will be regarded as having consented to organ donation unless they have opted opt. This is called deemed consent
  • The move is designed to increase the number of potential organ donors and will ultimately increase the number of organs available for transplant
  • Under the new system, a person will become a potential donor either by registering their decision to opt in – as they do currently – or by doing nothing at all, in which case their consent may be deemed
  • By doing nothing it will be as if someone has no objection to becoming an organ donor and an individual will be treated in the same way as if they had chosen to be a donor. If an individual doesn’t want to be a donor they can register their decision to opt out
  • The Welsh system will be a soft opt-out system, meaning a person’s family and friends will have a significant role to play in the ultimate decision to donate an organ. If they knew their loved one did not wish to be an organ donor, even if they had not opted out, they will be able to tell clinicians at the hospital and donation will not take place.

The latest polling shows that 62% of people in Wales are aware of the organ donation changes, up from 57% in June 2014.

Professor Drakeford said yesterday:

“Last year, 12 people in Wales died while waiting for a transplant. We can’t allow this to continue, which is why we have taken action and become the first nation in the UK to pass this unique law to make more organs available for transplant.

“The change to a soft opt-out system for organ donation only six months from today will deliver a revolution in consent and has the potential to make a real difference to so many people’s lives.”  

 

Channel website: http://gov.wales

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