Automatic organ donation has saved dozens of lives, Assembly to be told


A landmark change to the way organs are donated has saved dozens of lives, Wales' health minister will tell Assembly Members later today.

Last year, Wales became the first part of the UK where people automatically become donors after their death unless they object beforehand.

The move - from an "opt in" to an "opt out" system - was criticised by some religious groups.

However, six months on from the law coming into effect, Welsh Government officials say new figures prove the policy has been a life saver.

According to statistics, 60 organs were transplanted between December 1 last year and May 1, 2016 - with 32 coming from people whose "consent had been deemed".

This compares with 23 donations in the same period for 2014-15.

Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, is to address fellow AMs about the scheme in the Senedd later today.

He is expected to say: "I am extremely proud that Wales now leads the way by being the first nation in the UK to move to a soft opt-out system of consent. I fully expect that the new system will create a step change in consent for organ donation in Wales. The early indications are that this certainly is the case.

"This law was introduced to address the chronic shortage of organs for transplant which we face in Wales. I am sure we have all heard heart-breaking stories about those on organ waiting lists."

Under the new system, those over 18 become potential donors either by registering their decision to opt in or by doing nothing at all.

It applies to adults who have lived in the country for more than 12 months and organs available are the same as the "opt-in" method - including kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas.

According to the figures, 1,000 people in the UK die every year while waiting for a transplant.

Among those who welcomed the law's launch last year was the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Speaking in December, BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said: "We campaigned strongly in Wales to introduce soft opt-out and now it's time for the rest of the UK to follow their lead."

However, clerics from several faith groups - including Christians, Jews and Muslims - signed an open letter expressing their unease about the plan.

And The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, also expressed fears the scheme could turn "volunteers into conscripts".