Wales first country in UK to adopt ‘opt-out’ organ donation system

The NHS Organ Donation symbol as found on donor cards

The NHS Organ Donation symbol as found on donor cards up and down the country.

AS OF DECEMBER 1st, residents of Wales will be automatically listed as organ donors unless they formally request to opt out of the system.

The move comes as part of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act – which came into law in November 2013 – to increase the number of donors across the UK, where it is estimated there is 10,000 people awaiting an organ for a transplant. The new system uses ‘deemed consent’ to attempt to save more patients waiting on transplant lists.

Since the Act passed into law in November 2013, there has been resistance and 86,000 people have decided to opt out, though this represents just 3% of the population and has conversely seen 1,083,000 people opt in to the Organ Donor Register.

Work on this Act has been underway since 2007, when the charity Kidney Wales started rallying the support of the Welsh people. In 2010, a YouGov poll showed that 71% of the population backed a change to the donation system provided it was backed by a ‘comprehensive communication programme’. Chief Executive of Kidney Wales Roy Thomas, who has been campaigning with his charity for this legislation to come into effect, welcomed the news that it had finally become law:

“It has been a journey of consultation, research and polling but more importantly a journey of hope for those waiting on the transplant list. It is clear the UK needs to reform the way it deals with organ donation. It needs to be more progressive. What is clear is that the NHS Organ Donation Register has only managed to succeed in obtaining a sign-up rate across the UK of around a third of the population.

Additionally, only 40% of transplants derive from the Organ Donor Register and we believe that it is time to effect real change and look to the future. The new law introduces a new culture of organ donation in the UK and should now be adopted by the United Kingdom as a whole.”

Though this puts Wales at the front of the pack in the UK when it comes to progressive transplant legislation, there is still a large gap between the UK and the rest of Europe. Thomas went on to say:

“Spain currently has the highest organ donation rate in the world, largely due to their opt-out system and Belgium is another country that saw donor rates increase after its introduction. With Wales now leading the way forward with regards to organ donation in the United Kingdom, it is time for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to review their own laws, in order to save tens of thousands of lives.”