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Wales kick-starts organ donation law ‘revolution’ in the UK

As of Tuesday, Dec. 1, Wales becomes the first U.K. nation to bring a “revolutionary” new law into force — one that will mean adults are deemed to have consented to organ donation unless they have opted out.

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The new system is set to dramatically increase the number of registered organ donors: So far, over one million people have registered to opt in, with 86,000 opting out. The official target is to increase the number of donors by 25 percent.

The so-called “soft opt-out” system will now apply for all people aged 18 or over who have lived in Wales for more than 12 months, and who die in Wales. A person will become a potential donor either by registering their decision to opt in (as they did previously), or by doing nothing at all, which will be presumed to signify consent. If families knew their loved one did not want to be a potential donor, they can tell doctors and donation will not take place, even if the deceased had not opted out.

Paying tribute to the Welsh political parties who have backed the change in the law, Health Minister Mark Drakeford described the move as a “groundbreaking step, which will save lives.”

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Between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, 2,466 donors made it possible for 4,655 organ transplants to be carried out in the U.K. However there are always significantly more people waiting for a transplant than there are organs available.

Everyone in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland — irrespective of age or health and who is considered legally competent — can join the NHS Organ Donor Register. This expresses a wish to help others by donating organs for use in transplantation after death. Crucially, joining the Register also is a way to give legal consent or authorisation for donation to take place.

If you would like to be a potential organ donor, you can add your name to the Register.

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