The introduction of the Bill begins the formal process of its consideration by the Assembly.
To coincide with this milestone, a new publicity campaign is being launched today (4 December) alongside two international evidence reviews into soft opt-out systems of organ donation and the role of relatives in organ donation.
The review of international evidence on soft opt-out systems brought to light two new studies which found presumed consent legislation is associated with a 13–18% increase in organ donation rates. However, it cannot be guaranteed that legislative change alone will result in increased organ donation rates: other factors play a part.
Family refusal continues to be the main factor affecting donation rates. A review of evidence from around the world found that the main reason for refusal is lack of knowledge of the deceased relative’s wishes. When the loved one’s wishes are known, in the majority of cases, family members will respect those wishes. The changes proposed in Wales will help clarify people’s wishes
It is clear that family discussions around organ donation, while sensitive, are vitally important. Where the next-of-kin know the deceased wished to be an organ donor, family consent rates are approximately 90%.
With this in mind, the Welsh Government is launching “Heart to Heart”, a publicity campaign encouraging people to share their wishes about organ donation with their families.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:
“Organ donation saves and improves lives. We are delivering on our commitment, supported by the public, to introduce an opt-out system of organ donation.
“The role of the family is critical in informing the final decision on what happens to their relative’s organs. The wishes of the deceased are paramount and the vast majority of the people of Wales do expect their wishes to be what really counts. For that reason, as is the case now, the family has no legal right to veto but, in practice, a clinician would never add to their distress by insisting on donation.
“Evidence shows the main reason families refuse to agree to organ donation they don’t know what their loved one felt about organ donation. We are therefore launching the ‘Heart to Heart’ campaign to encourage people to share their wishes with those around them. Under a system of deemed consent, families have the reassurance that their loved ones could have opted out of organ donation during their lifetime.
“We know a soft opt-out system alone won’t increase donation rates. Evidence from other countries shows the health service infrastructure has to be right to make it work. We are confident in Wales we now have a strong infrastructure for organ donation, and changing the legislation is the best way to help those 379 people in Wales waiting for a transplant.”