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Opt-out system for organ donation outlined in Wales

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard
UK donor card

8th November 2011 - With Wales set to become the first country in the UK to adopt a system of 'presumed consent' for organ and tissue donation, read our FAQs about what the changes would mean.

What is an 'opt-out' organ donor scheme?

At the moment people have to choose to join the NHS organ donor register if they want to donate their organs or tissues after they die. This means they have to 'opt-in'.

Under the proposals outlined in Wales, unless a person makes an objection, their organs and tissues will be available for donation in the event of their death.

This form of organ donation is known as 'presumed consent' or 'a soft opt-out'. In the "soft opt-out system, the views of relatives may be taken into account. In a "hard opt-out" system, such as in Austria, the views of close relatives are not considered.

Why is it being proposed?

Supporters believe it will help solve a shortage of donors. This shortfall contributes to one person a week in Wales dying while waiting for a suitable donor.

Only one in three people in Wales have joined the organ donor register, while around 300 people in Wales are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

The Welsh health minister Lesley Griffiths said in a statement: "The shortage of organs and tissues continues to cause unnecessary deaths and suffering, both to patients waiting for a transplant and their relatives."

Will everyone be a potential donor unless they object?

No. You will have to be 18 or over, and to have lived in Wales for a certain period of time, to be included. The amount of time has yet to be decided.

A person would also have to die in Wales to be considered as part of the scheme.

Individuals would also have to demonstrate that they had the mental capacity to understand the choice.

I don't want to be a donor. What will I have to do?

If you are 18 or over you would have to opt out of the scheme. A decision on how the wishes of individuals will be recorded is still a matter of debate. A number of different solutions have been put forward. These are:

  • A register of people who have not objected, and a register of persons who have objected
  • A register only of those who have not objected
  • A register of individuals who have objected
  • No register, but a record of objection given to and held by a person’s GP

If the system becomes law, Welsh people will be given a period of time to decide whether they want to opt out.

What happens if a relative dies and I object to their organs being used?

Relatives will be involved in the decision making, but they are unlikely to be able to overturn the deceased individual's wishes unless they can demonstrate that it would "add to their distress and bereavement".

Those who have drafted the proposals believe that this sort of conflict is less likely to happen because people who have opted to stay on the register are more likely to have discussed their wishes with loved ones.

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