Opt For Life by Roy J Thomas Chairman Kidney Wales Foundation and Opt For Life Cymru
The UK’s first soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation will be in place in four years time. The UK has the one of the lowest donor rates in Europe.
In the UK, three people die every day while on the waiting list because a suitable donor cannot be found.
There has been a great reluctance to change the existing mode of seeking donation in the UK. The Welsh Government published a White Paper this week setting out a legislative timetable to implement changes to increase the number of organs and tissues available for transplantation through a soft opt out system.
Currently, people have to opt to join the UK organ donor register if they want to donate their organs and tissues after death.
A soft opt-out system means that unless an individual makes an objection their organs and tissues will be available for donation after their death. After death relatives would also be involved in the decision making process around donation of a loved one.
A great deal of scaremongering unfortunately materialises. This is evident from comment pages on news sites, blogs or indeed tweets. The new system is often misrepresented or often misquoted. Practical issues of the new system are misquoted as on the usually reliable BBC Thought for Day on Wednesday 9 of November when the issue of Alder Hey was raised but not the solution of long ago which was the introduction of the safeguards of the Human Tissue Act.
In Wales, around 500 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant and 10,000 in the UK as a whole. Many of us see this as a slot figure as it has maintained at this rate for some years. It is better to have a kidney prior to dialysis and prior to being put on an indefinite waiting list.
The White Paper in Wales sets out how the system would work, with a Bill being introduced into the National Assembly for Wales next year and an opt-out system becoming operational in 2015.
A majority of the public believe in organ donation even if they have not joined the NHS organ donor register.
According to a 2008 report by the Organ Donation Taskforce Report, 65 per cent of the UK population say they are prepared to donate an organ after their death and 90 per cent support organ donation.
A consultation by the Welsh Government in 2009 also showed 81 per cent of respondents were in favour of an opt-out system. A You Gov Poll taken in 2009 showed 71% in favour. The matter has been debated and campaigned for for 4 years in Wales.
According to an analysis which compared 22 countries over 10 years, those countries with an opt-out system have roughly 25-30 per cent higher donation rates than countries which have ‘informed consent’ schemes. Belgium introduced soft opt out in 1986 and successfully saw donor rates doubling within three years.
Wales has a history of innovative thinking in increasing organ donation. In the 1980’s, Kidney Wales ensured a computer register was in place when working with Manchester University with Lifeline Wales and after that ensured cards were sent out with driving licenses with the DVLA in Swansea. We pray for those who wait that this will be a further step in the right direction to a new life.Opt For Life by Roy J Thomas Chairman Kidney Wales Foundation and Opt For Life Cymru