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Wales moves to new ‘soft opt-out’ system of organ donation

'Teddy's story': the the Cardiff newborn who became the UK's youngest ever organ donor, and whose short life inspired thousands of others to register as organ donors ahead of the new law. Photo © ITV.

‘Teddy’s story’: the Cardiff newborn who became the UK’s youngest ever organ donor, and whose short life inspired thousands of others to register as organ donors ahead of the new law. Photo © ITV.

A new ‘soft opt-out’ system of organ donation will come into effect in Wales today, in a move which it is hoped will increase the number of organ donors by 25%. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has long campaigned for the introduction of such a system, and gave oral evidence to the Welsh Assembly Government Committee Inquiry on the matter. It has welcomed today’s change.

The soft opt-out system means that anyone who is over 18 and has lived in Wales for more than 12 months will be assumed to have given consent to donate their organs in the event that they die, unless they explicitly opt out, or their loved ones make it known at the end of their life that the individual would not have wished for their organs to be donated.

This is as opposed to the ‘opt-in’ system that previously operated in Wales, and still operates in the rest of the UK, whereby individuals are not deemed to have consented to donate their organs unless they explicitly opt in to the organ donor register. The problem with this system is that many individuals who would be happy to have their organs donated simply do not state a preference either way. The ‘soft opt out’ system means that such individuals will have their organs donated – while minimising the risk that other individuals who do not want this to happen to their organs will nonetheless end up as donors.

BHA Director of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome the move by Wales from an opt-in to soft opt-out system of organ donation. Such a change is set to increase the number of available organs for donation and thus reduce the number of individuals dying needlessly due to a shortage of donors – while at the same time, taking all necessary precautions to ensure that those with a conscientious objection to donating their organs will not do so.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

Read more about the BHA’s position on organ donation: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion of belief.

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