Welsh Government
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Wales outlines details for opt-out system of organ and tissue donation

The detail of how a soft opt-out system for deceased organ and tissue donation in Wales would work was outlined by the Welsh Government yesterday.

Wales will be the first UK country to introduce such a system, designed to increase the number of organ and tissue donors, if legislation is approved.

Currently, people have to opt to join the NHS organ donor register if they want to donate their organs and tissues after their death.

A soft opt-out system for Wales means unless an individual makes an objection their organs and tissues will be available for donation after their death.  After death relatives will be involved in the decision making process around donation.

One person a week in Wales dies while waiting for a suitable donor and around 300 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

The timetable for the introduction of an opt-out system will be laid out in a White Paper published today.  A Bill will be introduced in 2012, legislation could be in place by 2013 and a soft opt-out system could come into effect in 2015.

The White Paper sets out proposals for how the system would work including:

  • only people aged 18 or over who both live and die in Wales would be included under the system;
  • individuals must have lived in Wales for a sufficient period of time before being included in an opt-out system – the White Paper invites views on how long that period should be; and
  • proposing four options for how people’s wishes on donation could be recorded – including keeping a register of both those who have objected and not objected, or keeping no register of objection.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:

“The shortage of organs and tissues continues to cause unnecessary deaths and suffering, both to patients waiting for a transplant and their relatives.

“The Welsh Government believes that this legislation will go a long way to increasing the number of organs and tissues available.

“When people die, donation of their organs and tissues is often possible but currently does not happen – not because they did not wish to donate but because they never got round to joining the organ donor register.

“Repeated surveys show that the overwhelming majority of people in the UK and Wales believe in organ donation, but only one in three people in Wales have joined the organ donor register.

“Last year 67 per cent of donors were not on the organ donor register.  Therefore we believe creating an environment in which donation is the norm will enable more organs to be available.  People are more likely to make decisions about donation during their lifetime and to have discussed their wishes with their family under such a system.

“Upon legislation being approved however, people will be given time to opt-out if they so wish, and families will still be involved in the donation process.

“A soft opt-out system will not change the way patients are cared for – including the medical treatment they will receive – up to and including the time of death.  Neither will it change the way in which death is confirmed as there are very clear and strict standards and procedures for confirming death.

“Introducing a soft opt-out system will mean people are more likely to make decisions about donation during their lifetime and to have discussed their wishes with their family.”

Consultation on the proposals outlined in the White Paper opens today and closes on 31 January 2012.

The Welsh Government will also be undertaking a series of public meetings around Wales on the White Paper.  For details of these, contact organdonation@wales.gsi.gov.uk

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