Kidney Wales Foundation backs Welsh Assembly Government’s announcement to move to soft opt out organ donation.

The Kidney Wales Foundation, has welcomed the announcement from Edwina Hart AM, Minister for Health and Social Services that the Welsh Assembly Government will move to a system of soft opt out for organ donation. Kidney Wales believes this will increase the number of organ donors in Wales.

Chairman of Kidney Wales Foundation, Roy J.Thomas said

"Someone dies every 11 days waiting for a transplant in Wales. We know the overwhelming majority of people in Wales would like their organs to be donated after death but only 28% of people are on the NHS organ donor register. Cruelly, this means even more people are dying and waiting.

This decision by the Minister will break new ground in the UK. Many other countries in Europe operate a system of opt out, and it is a large part of why they have far higher organ donation rates. Recent polling conducted exclusively for Kidney Wales shows that the public support this measure 2 to 1. We hope the rest of the UK will now follow the lead that Wales has given.

Earlier this year hundreds of our supporters wrote to the Assembly Government to make this move. We are delighted that the Health Minister, the Cabinet and the Welsh Assembly Government have listened and that there is cross party support for the move."

Martyn Hutchings, who is waiting for a kidney transplant said:

"This decision gives hope to people like me who are waiting for a Kidney. Moving to a soft opt out organ donation system will mean that more organs are available a new kidney will transform my life. The announcement gives me fresh hope for a return to a life without waiting."

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English and welsh language case studies and spokespeople are available. For more information or interviews contact Alison Goldsworthy. Director of Communications and Events on 029 2034 3940 or 07974 353021.

Notes to editors

1.Under the favoured Kidney Wales system of Soft Opt Out Welsh residents are presumed to be organ donors on death unless:

They have joined an opt out register
They cannot be identified
The person’s place of residence cannot be identified
The wishes of the deceased can be proven to be contrary after relatives have been contacted
Immediate relatives object.

2.We believe that Wales and the UK will have the infrastructure in place to deal with more organs. As by the time the legislation is in place the UK Organ Donor Taskforce recommendations will have been completed.

3.Presumed consent does not take away the right of the individual to decide whether they wish to donate or not. If a person does not want to donate their organs for transplant then they have the right to automatically take themselves off the Register.

4.Presumed consent does not mean hospitals will take organs from those who do not wish to donate. The family of the person still has a say. If a person has not taken themselves off the Register, but their family say they knew their loved one did not want to donate then the donation will not take place. Likewise when it is not possible to attain what a person’s wishes were i.e. they have no family to consult, then again the donation will not take place. Only those that do want to donate under an Opt-out system do so.

5.The presumed consent system has been hugely successful in other countries. When Belgium introduced the opt-out system in 1986 its national rate of organ donation rose by 55% within five years. Belgians can take themselves off the Register at their local town hall, but only 2% have done so since the law was introduced. In Spain, where a similar system of opt-out exists, there are 35 donors per million population compared to just 12 in the UK (see table below). It is the only country to witness a year-on-year increase in organ donation for the last ten years.

6.Kidney Wales, along with the BMA, supports the introduction of a soft opt-out system in Wales as has already been adopted in the majority of other European countries i.e. Spain. It is this, alongside the introduction of more donor co-ordinators, which will lead to more lives being saved through the gift of organ donation.

7.For over 42 years the The Kidney Wales Foundation has been at the forefront of kidney patient care, wellbeing and research The Kidney Wales Foundation’s exists to support patients and families and promote excellence in renal research, treatment and education in Wales.

8.Polling conducted online by YouGov amongst 1021 Welsh adults in between the 11th and 14th December 2009. The figures have been waited and our respresentative of all Welsh adults (age 18+). Two thirds supported a ‘system where people were presumed to want to donate organs unless they, or after death their family, said otherwise.’ Breakdown available on request.