Support growing for organ opt-out
SUPPORT for the opt-out system of organ donation in Wales has increased in the two years it has been in place, a study has found.
An evaluation of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act found members of the public, and NHS staff, are now more in favour of the system.
Before implementation, 71% of staff said they were in favour of the change in legislation, increasing to 85% afterwards.
The percentage of families giving consent for donation rose from 44.4% in 2014 to 64.5% in 2017.
More than half of people involved in the 2017 study said they had discussed their organ donation wishes with a family member.
This figure was about 40% between 2012 and 2015.
Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health secretary, said he welcomed the findings of the study.
“I congratulate the healthcare professionals involved in making this a success however, none of what we have achieved would have been possible without the support of the Welsh population,” Mr Gething said.
“I’m delighted that in the first two quarters of this year, our consent rate reached 72% putting us second in the UK, with 39% of the Welsh population registering as organ donors.
“While this is not reflected in a rise in donors overall, the report suggests this may be because there have been fewer eligible donors over the short period since the change in law.
“We must work harder to further increase organ donation levels while there are people dying waiting for their transplant and to have a significant impact on reducing those waiting lists.
“It’s important to remember that it’s too early to know what the true impact of the change will be, but I’m confident we have started to create a culture where organ donation is openly discussed.
“While awareness and understanding is increasing, it’s really important that we keep the momentum going and continue to monitor, over the long term, the impact of the Act.”
Wales became the first UK country to move to a soft opt-out system of consent to organ donation on December 1 in 2015.
If a person has not opted in or opted out, they are considered as having no objection to being an organ donor.
Organ donation activity data for 2016/17, published by NHS Blood and Transplant, showed that the number of patients who died on the waiting list decreased 18.5%. In total, 27 people died waiting for their transplant between 2015/16 whereas 22 died in 2016/17.
The number of donors after brain stem death increased by four, from 36 in 2015/16 to 40 in 2016/17.
One more patient living in Wales received a cardiac transplant, while the number of people receiving a live kidney transplant increased by five.
An advertising campaign was launched in November to increase public awareness of the law, focusing on the role of families in the organ donation process.
In 2016/17, there were 21 cases in Wales in which families overrode their relatives’ decisions to donate organs, or did not support the deemed consent.
A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said this could have resulted in as many as 65 additional transplants.
This is because the average number of organs retrieved per donor in Wales is 3.1.