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Deemed consent for organ donation increases transplants in Wales

Third of Welsh adults on register, but government wants to improve donation rates

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

There has been an astonishing 50% rise in the number of liver transplants in Wales in the year since the nation changed to a system of deemed consent for organ donation, the Welsh health secretary has revealed. He welcomed the news that more than a third of adults in Wales are now on the organ donor register, but called for more to sign up to save even more lives.

In 2015, Wales became the first UK nation to change to a ‘soft opt-out’ organ donation system, in which adults who have lived in Wales for at least 12 months and who die there are treated as having consented to organ donation unless they have specifically opted out – known as deemed consent. This means that people who have no objection to donating their organs after their death can either register, or do nothing. Those who have opted in may opt out whenever they wish.

The Welsh government yesterday published its Organ Donation Annual Report 2016, which showed the success of the new system so far:

  • 31 deceased people donated a total of 60 organs between 1 December 2015 and 31 May 2016. The 10 of these patients to whom ‘deemed consent’ applied, as they had not registered a decision, collectively donated 32 organs – more than half the total. In the same period in 2014-15, 23 people donated their organs.
  • There was a 50% rise in the number of patients in Wales receiving liver transplants compared with last year, a 19% rise in the number of patients receiving kidney transplants compared with last year, and a 63% rise in the number receiving cardiothoracic transplants.
  • The number of people in Wales waiting for a transplant fell by 38% compared with five years ago, from 309 in 2010-11 to 193 in 2015-16.

Health secretary Vaughan Gething said that although more than three-quarters (76%) of the public in Wales know about the changes to the donation system, as a result of the Welsh government’s concerted effort to raise awareness, more needs to be done to reach the Welsh public. He said: “I was extremely proud when we used our new law-making powers to change legislation around organ donation. The result of our assertive action is starting to show and there’s a lot to be proud of in today’s annual report.

“We’ve seen improvements in the number of donated organs and 36% of the population of Wales, 1,113,090 people, are now on the Organ Donor Register. We are moving in the right direction, but while there are still people dying waiting for potentially life-saving transplants we must do more …

“I want to encourage everyone across Wales to talk with their loved ones about their organ donation wishes so we can see a rise in the number of people whose lives can be saved or improved by an organ transplant.”

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