An extra 15 people a year could donate their organs

Posted on October 17th, 2012 in Uncategorized

AN EXTRA 15 people a year could donate their organs after death if Wales becomes the first part of the UK to move to an opt-out system, it has been claimed. 

Welsh Government officials believe creating just one extra organ donor would pay for the projected pounds 5m cost of switching to opt-out organ donation

The draft Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill, which was published yesterday, proposes replacing the current opt-in organ donation system with an opt-out process. 

If the Bill is passed, Wales will become the first part of the UK to change the organ donation system. 

Half of the projected cost – pounds 5m between now and 2016-17 – will be spent on a publicity and education campaign explaining how the new system will work. 

Christian groups, including the Church in Wales, have questioned whether a change to opt-out will increase the number of donors and charity Care warned such a move takes “Wales down a dangerous path”. 

Launching the draft Bill, which will be subject to another period of public consultation, Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “We are seeking a change in the law to increase the number of organ and tissue donors and to save lives. 

“One donor can improve or save the lives of up to nine other people by donating their organs and many more through the donation of their tissues. 

“Wales has seen a 49% increase in donation rates since 2008, which is a huge achievement to be proud of. 

“However, there is still a shortage of organs for transplant. 

In 2011-12, sadly 37 people in Wales died while waiting for an organ. 

“I believe the time has come to introduce a change in the law, together with an extensive communication and education programme encouraging people to make a decision and to ensure their families know their wishes.” 

The draft Bill proposes creating a single register, which will record the names of those people, over the age of 18 and who have lived in Wales for six months, who want to opt in to donation – to be known as express consent – and those who want to opt out from the process altogether. 

Those people who do neither will be deemed to have given their consent and made a positive decision to donate their organs and tissues. 

Families will have no legal right to veto donation but, as now, donation will not go ahead if they are strongly opposed to it. 

Currently, it is estimated around 40% of families refuse permission to donate organs for transplant when approached. Evidence from other countries which also have opt-out, suggest that figure will fall to 10%. In a written statement to AMs, Mrs Griffiths said: “It will be treated as a wish of the deceased to be a donor and a decision which families will be sensitively encouraged to accept.” 

It is expected such a change in the law will increase the number of organ donors by around 25% – about 15 donors. 

This would equate to some 45 extra organs available for transplant. 

The latest figures show 67 people from Wales donated their organs after their death last year. 

These organs would be available to people on the UK transplant waiting list and would be allocated on the basis of compatibility and clinical need. Roy J Thomas, chairman of Kidney Wales Foundation, said: “The Welsh people see this as an important measure and so have leading politicians cross all political divides. 

“Education programmes on organ donation have been happening in the UK for decades and still three people die every day waiting in the UK and one person dies a week in Wales. With change we get more lives saved.” 

And Elin Jones, Plaid Cymru’s health spokeswoman, said: “Moving to an opt-out system will ensure the number of people who donate increases and a number of lives are no longer needlessly lost. 

“The system doesn’t take the right of the individual to decide – if a person does not want to donate their organs they can simply opt out. In the 22 countries that currently operate a system of presumed consent, the evidence shows that donor rates are around 25% to 35% higher than in Wales. 

“Far too many families in Wales are watching a brother, sister, mother or father waiting for a life-saving transplant, when the answer is staring us in the face. We need more organ donors and presumed consent is proven to work.” 

A final Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill is expected later this year following the public consultation, which runs until September. If passed, it is expected the new opt-out system will be introduced in 2015. An earlier public consultation on plans to move to opt out was largely supportive of the idea, but there remains opposition to such a change. 

But there are concerns about the ethics of presumed consent and whether NHS Wales has the infrastructure to deal with an increase in organs for transplant – only kidney and pancreas transplants are carried out in Wales. 

Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the British Medical Association’s medical ethics committee, said: “We’re very pleased the Welsh Government has published this ground-breaking legislation and we are supportive of moving to opt-out. 

“It will increase the number of available organs for people who desperately need them in Wales.” 

TIMELINE: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? JUNE 2012: The draft Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill is published outlining the move to opt-out SEPTEMBER 2012: The public consultation on the draft Bill closes END OF 2012: The final Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill is published 2013: The Bill will be debated and scrutinised at the National Assembly 2013-14: If passed, a pounds 2.5m publicity and education campaign will be launched to explain how the new system will work 2015: The new opt-out system for organ donation will be introduced in Wales THE OPPOSITION: ‘ILL-JUDGED IDEA WILL UNDERMINE DONATION’ THE Church has been at the heart of opposition to moves to introduce opt-out in Wales. 

The Church in Wales, Catholic Church and the Wales Eastern Orthodox Mission were united in opposing the draft plans, describing them as “ill-judged”. 

And in a joint statement in January, they said a move to opt-out could undermine the positive image of organ donation and Wales’ reputation. 

Responding to the draft Bill published yesterday, a statement from the Bishops of the Church in Wales, said: “Organ donation is a way of expressing solidarity with our fellow human beings, and sharing with them the gift of life, even after our own death. 

“Signing up to the organ donor register is something all Christians should be encouraged to do. But like any other altruistic gift, organ and tissue donation should be freely given, not assumed. We are pleased the Welsh Government has taken note of the responses made to the first stage of the consultation process. There is now much more clarity about the system, especially about recognising the importance of the involvement of families at the time of donation. 

“However, the system that will have to be introduced to ensure potential donors fulfil all the necessary criteria – residence, age, mental capacity, evidence of wishes – will be complicated. It would be better to invest resources in wide-reaching public awareness campaigns to encourage more people to become voluntary donors. 

“Evidence any system of ‘automatic’ donation increases the supply of organs – whether it’s called ‘presumed’ consent, ‘deemed’ consent, or ‘opt-out’ – is still disputable.” 

Meanwhile, the Christian charity Care, said the draft Bill is “taking Wales down a dangerous path” and it also believes it is unlikely it will increase the number of organ donors. 

Dr Dan Boucher, the charity’s policy officer in Wales, said: “Although the Welsh Government’s heart is in the right place, the policy is not. A system of presumed consent is highly concerning both in terms of its ethics and efficacy. Care will be responding to the Welsh Government’s consultation and urging it to reconsider its proposals.” 

Welsh Conservative AMs will be given a free vote on the Bill when it reaches the Senedd, after Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar questioned whether changing the law really is a “silver bullet“. 

He added: “Organ donation is an emotive subject and it’s important to examine both the clinical evidence for and against the Welsh Government’s proposed approach and to listen to the views of the Welsh public during the coming weeks. 

“It remains a fact some countries operating presumed consent systems have lower rates of organ donation so legislation should not be seen as a silver bullet to improving donation rates.” 

Stuart Davies, 45, from Bancffosfelen, in Carmarthenshire, received his first donor kidney in 1992 and a second in 2003. 

He has represented Great Britain in two World Transplant Games; and Cardiff in nine British Transplant Games, bringing home a total of 43 medals. 

He also won the Victor Laudorum award for the best male adult athlete for three consecutive years. 

Stuart said: “I’m in favour of the proposed legislation as I feel it will make more organs available for transplantation. 

“Having spent almost a quarter of my life on dialysis, I know only too well the desperate, bleak and uncertain feeling of waiting for an organ. I also saw several of my fellow dialysis patients die waiting for a transplant. Having a transplant has given me my life back and enabled me to be a proper husband to my wife, and father to our daughters. 

“In my opinion, if you are willing to accept an organ should you need one then, in turn, you should also be willing to donate in the event of your death.” 

Tracy Baker, from Neath, has won more than 30 medals in the British Transplant Games and two gold medals in the World Games. The 34-year-old had her first kidney transplant at the age of 11, and a second in October 2007. 

“Since my transplant, I have been running and going to the gym regularly. Before my transplant I didn’t have the energy required for either. Since then, I’ve gone from strength to strength and competing in athletics is a major part of my life now,” Tracy said. 

“I fully support a soft opt-out system as having a transplant changed my life.”

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