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Change in law to increase number of organ donations in Wales

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From 1 December 2015, the Welsh Government has switched to an “opt-out” system for organ donation. This means that if you live in Wales and do not want to be an organ donor after you die, you have to opt out by telephone or online. You can still also register your decision to opt in.

The Welsh Government claims that there will be a 25 per cent increase in available organs due to the change in a drive to reduce the numbers of patients dying whilst on the donation waiting list. 14 patients died in Wales last year whilst waiting for a suitable donor organ.

The thinking behind the system is that people often agree with the principle of organ donation but forget or overlook the need to register themselves. This way people have to make an active decision to be taken off the register, by telephoning or confirming online, or they just remain eligible for organ donation following their death.

The role of bereaved relatives always has to be dealt with carefully. The Welsh Government has confirmed that family and friends cannot override the wishes of someone who has actively placed themselves on the register for organ donation but they can confirm to medics that their loved one did not wish to become an organ donor.

The rest of the UK will be watching how the changes in the law impact the number of eligible donors and whether a similar system would be beneficial for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

By Gemma Crompton, clinical negligence team