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Call for soft ‘opt out’ organ donor rules in England

Organ donation box

Doctors have renewed calls for England to align its organ-donor rules with those in Wales, which significantly boosted the number of transplants during its first year.

The calls come amid signs of public support for a Welsh-style ‘opt-out’ system in England.

In December last year, Wales became the first nation in the UK to introduce a ‘soft opt out’ organ-donation system.

Under this, people who have lived in Wales for more than 12 months – and who have not registered to ‘opt out’ of donation – will be regarded as having offered ‘deemed consent’ to donate if they die.

The same register allows residents to offer ‘express consent’ by explicitly agreeing to donation. A number of safeguards are also in place in Wales, including an option for relatives to provide information about a known, but unregistered, objection by the individual.


Enthusiasm grows

Public support for the extension of some kind of opt-out system to England appears to be growing.

Two separate petitions – on Parliament’s open petitions website and the 38 Degrees site – have racked up more than 3,000 signatures.

The parliamentary petition has been posted by Sarah Barton, a friend of a family whose daughter, Marnie Brace, last year became the youngest patient on the heart transplant list, at three and a half months old.

Marnie, who suffered from Noonan syndrome, died aged five months, in October.

Since the opt-out system was adopted in Wales, 160 organs have been transplanted, almost a quarter of which were donated through ‘deemed consent’. Only 6 per cent of the Welsh population has opted out of donation.

BMA medical ethics committee chair John Chisholm said: ‘International evidence shows similar trends to those in Wales, with increases in donation rates in countries that have moved to an opt-out system.’

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