Organ donation: Wales' opt-out versus England's opt-in systems

  • Anaesthesia
  • 5 May 2020

  • curated by Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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Research published in Anaesthesia suggests that a ‘soft opt-out’ organ donation system may increase consent rates for organ donation after death.

The study compared organ donation consent with the soft opt-out system in Wales and the opt-in system used in England.

An opt-out system of consent was introduced in Wales in December 2015. The families are still asked to support organ donation (soft opt-out system). In contrast, England maintained the existing opt-in system.

To examine the effect of Wales’ change in policy, investigators compared quarterly data on consent rates for deceased organ donation in Wales versus England from January 2016 through December 2018.

By the end of the study period, the chance of consent to organ donation in Wales was 2.1 times higher than in England and was 2.8 times higher in patients who had made no prior donation decision.

“We observed that organ donation consent rates in Wales significantly increased in comparison with England, although the impact was not immediate and took several years to take effect,” said author Phil Walton, NHS Blood and Transplant. “Following an extensive marketing campaign in Wales, specialist nurses reported that in most conversations the families were expecting to talk about organ donation and were prepared to explore the options available to them.”

The findings are especially timely because the law around organ donation is changing in England, and an opt out system is being rolled out on 20 May 2020.