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Written Statement - Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill

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Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services 

The Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill has been laid today.  

The Bill gives effect to the Welsh Government’s commitment to introduce a soft opt-out system for consent to deceased organ and tissue donation, supported by comprehensive communications campaign.  A soft opt-out system means unless a person has opted out of being a donor, they would be deemed to have no objection to their organs being considered for donation if they died in circumstances in which donation was a possibility.  In a soft opt-out system, the deceased’s family is still involved in the decision-making process around donation.  Evidence suggests changing to this system can increase organ donation by up to 25 per cent.  

The Bill sets out in one place the main provisions relating to consent for transplantation activities in Wales.  To maintain an effective cross-border regime in terms of the operation of the UK-wide organ transplantation programme, there is an inevitable interplay with the Human Tissue Act 2004 (the 2004 Act), which is the current legislative framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Therefore the Bill restates, for Wales, certain sections of the 2004 Act directly related to consent for the purposes of transplantation.  Other provisions of the 2004 Act not directly related to consent have not been restated and continue to apply in Wales. The Bill only changes the consent system: it does not alter in any way clinical decisions or patient care.

This Bill is a significant milestone for organ donation in the UK.  Organ transplants save lives and improve lives. People are dying unnecessarily due to a chronic shortage of organs.  By making this important change, which is supported by a significant proportion of the Welsh population, we are giving people the very best chance of life.  

The Bill has been the subject of two extensive consultations – the first on a White Paper setting out options for how a soft opt-out system should work, and the second on the actual draft legislation.  I have been pleased to see the level of interest and debate sparked by our proposals over the past year.  To complete the process, I have also published today the text of the responses to the consultation on the draft Bill which ran between 18 June and 10 September 2012.  The responses will be available to read on the Welsh Government website.  The consultation summary report which I published on 19 October has been updated to insert a new Annex listing the respondents, and to make an adjustment to the analysis of responses received following final checking.  This report shows that the total number of responses received was 2,977.

The Welsh Government is also publishing today two pieces of research which will support the scrutiny of the Bill.   The first is an up-to-date review of international evidence relating to opt-out systems, finding six robust studies that show an association between opt-out laws and increased organ donation rates.   The second reviews evidence relating to the role of families in organ donation, and demonstrates that knowledge of the deceased’s wishes is perhaps the strongest factor in families’ decision to agree, or not, to organ donation.  I am therefore also launching tomorrow a communications campaign encouraging families to have conversations about organ donation.

I shall be making a Legislative Statement in Plenary tomorrow to introduce the Bill and I look forward to the Assembly’s consideration of the Bill over the coming months.