Currently, people have to decide to join the NHS organ donor register if they wish to donate their organs and tissues after death.
However,the Welsh Government will put forward legislation for the UK’s first soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation to increase the number of organs and tissues.
A soft opt-out system means unless an individual makes an objection, their organs and tissues will be obtainable for donation after their death. After death, relatives would also be involved in the decision making process around donation.
Today we published a White Paper setting out the details for how a system would operate.
While Wales has recently seen an increase in donated organs and tissues, on average one person a week in Wales dies while waiting for a transplant because a suitable donor cannot be found.
We believe the Welsh public is ready to take the step to an opt-out system. The majority of the public believe in organ donation even if they have not joined the NHS organ donor register.
When people die, donation of their organs is often possible but currently does not happen – not because they objected to donation - but because they never got round to joining the Organ Donor Register.
According to a 2008 report by the Organ Donation Taskforce Report, 65 per cent of the UK population say they are prepared to donate an organ after their death and 90 per cent support organ donation. However, only 31 per cent of the Welsh population are currently on the Organ Donation Register.
A consultation by the Welsh Government in 2009 also showed 81 per cent of respondents were in favour of an opt-out system.
We believe legislation will go a long way in reducing suffering and increasing the number of organs available. Research which compared 22 countries over 10 years showed those countries with an opt-out system have roughly 25-30 per cent higher donation rates than countries which have opt-in schemes.
Introducing a soft opt-out system will also mean people are more likely to make decisions about donation during their lifetime and to have discussed their wishes with their family.
Wales has taken the lead on organ and tissue donation in the past, pioneering the concepts of a kidney donor card and a computerised Organ Donor Register. We believe we should continue to be progressive on this issue and follow the example of those European countries with excellent records in organ donation, introducing a soft opt-out system as one element of a package of measures to increase organ and tissue donor numbers.