Assembly to push 'opt-out' organ donor system in Wales

donor card The assembly government is pushing for an opt-out donor system in Wales

Health Minister Edwina Hart is continuing to push for an opt-out organ donation system in Wales, while urging more potential donors to join the register.

The option would mean Welsh residents are presumed organ donors unless they or their relatives object.

There were 333 people in Wales waiting for a transplant at the end of March. On average one dies every 11 days.

Mrs Hart's renewed push coincides with National Transplant Week 2010.

She is due to give evidence on organ donation to the assembly's health committee later as part of an ongoing drive to make Wales the first part of the UK to introduce an opt-out system.

Research published in the British Medial Journal has claimed nearly 3,000 extra people in the UK would have donated organs if an opt-out option existed.

Start Quote

Evidence suggests families receive a lot of comfort from knowing some good has come out of the death of a loved one”

End Quote Dr George Findlay Chair of the Welsh Organ Donation Implementation Group

At present 826,000 people (27.9 %) in Wales are on the donor register - an increase of 20,000 on 2008-09.

Mrs Hart said: "I am pleased that we have reversed the decline in the number of deceased organ donors and are now beginning to see real progress in Wales, however we have much further to go.

"Our intention is to pursue legislative competence for a soft opt-out organ donation system in Wales at the earliest opportunity. With this system a patient's family will still be consulted on whether they wish their relative to donate an organ on death.

"Even once we have received the additional powers, it will still take time to implement and we must therefore continue within the current system to increase organ donation rates."

National Transplant Week 2010 is this year promoting the theme "Heart to Heart", in a bid to encourage potential donors to talk to their families about their views on organ donation and their wishes upon death.

In August, a new £4.2m assembly government-funded, renal transplant centre is due to open to patients at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.

'Comfort'

By 2012 it is hoped the centre will have increased current capacity from 90 patients per year up to 160.

Dr George Findlay, chair of the Welsh Organ Donation Implementation Group, added: "Organ donation should be considered as a usual part of the dying process in appropriate circumstances, and evidence suggests that families receive a lot of comfort from knowing some good has come out of the death of a loved one.

"This will help to reduce the number of people, who despite being on the organ donation register, do not go on to donate organs."

Mrs Hart's announcement was welcomed by Roy Thomas, chairman of Kidney Wales Foundation, who said it had cross-party support in the Welsh assembly and in the Houses of Parliament.

The so called 'soft opt-out' system is similar to that used in Belgium and Portugal, where organ donation rates are higher than in the UK.

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