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Wales Introduces New Opt-Out Organ Donation System

4084 Wales Introduces New Opt-Out Organ Donation System
The old "opt-in" system has now been changed to "opt-out." Magnus D/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Wales has become the first country in the U.K. to revolutionize its organ donor register, introducing a new system that could see the number of donors increase by a quarter. All adults will now automatically be on the organ donor register, unless they have actively decided to opt-out before they die. It is hoped that this will help to dramatically increase the number of organs available to the nearly 7,000 patients currently on the organ waiting list across the U.K.

Anyone who has lived in Wales for the last 12 months and is over the age of 18 will now be registered as “deemed consent” and will be considered for organ donation, unless they have actively opted-out. Although under the new system, if a patient has not formally opted-in upon death the family of the deceased can still decide not to donate their organs. Only around one percent of people who die are suitable for organ donation, because doctors have to remove the organs soon after death and this is usually only achievable for those who have died in hospital, meaning that there are often far more who need a transplant than organs donated. 


“The latest figures show 14 people died last year in Wales while waiting for a transplant,” explained Wales’ minister for health Mark Drakeford, to the Telegraph. “The change to a soft opt-out system for organ donation will deliver a revolution in consent. Organ donation saves lives; increasing the rate of organ donation allows us to save more lives. That's the key motivation for this significant change.” The organs donated in Wales will also go to help those across the border who are waiting for transplants in the rest of the U.K.

The new system will put Wales in line with other European countries, such as Spain and Croatia, which have already introduced the opt-out register, and have already seen increases in organ donation. How it works, and the level by which donations increase, will also be closely watched by both England and Scotland. In a bid to save the estimated 1,000 patients who die in these countries waiting for organs, these countries are also considering a change in the donation laws,.

So far three percent of the Welsh population, accounting for around 86,000 people, have opted-out. There has already been some criticism for the new system – mainly from faith groups – with the Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan, previously warning that the new register could be turning “volunteers into conscripts.” These concerns, however, appear to be in the minority, as charities and politicians alike welcome the change, and the potential savings of lives it will bring.    

Main image credit: Magnus D/Flickr CC BY 2.0

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