CARE Warns Against Opt-out Organ System

Monthly archive

13th Jul 2017
Rachael Adams
  • Data from the first year of opt-out organ system in Wales is less than encouraging

Dan Jarvis MP has secured a debate in parliament today looking at the possibility of introducing a presumed consent approach to organ donation in England.

Rather than choosing to become an organ donor, under the opt-out system consent is presumed unless someone explicitly chooses not to be a donor.

A presumed consent system was introduced in Wales in December 2015 and the results from the first full year for which figures are now available (April 2016-April 2017) are not encouraging.

Far from achieving the additional 45 organs the Welsh Government said it expected per annum, let alone a smaller increase, 2016-17 was actually associated with a deterioration in the availability of organs for donation, with three less donors and 33 less organs donated than in the previous year.

At the same time, over 170,000 people have withdrawn themselves from donation with the effect that their families can no longer be approach in relation to donation, significantly reducing the total pool of donors.

The number of people that have removed themselves from being an organ donor in Wales was far greater than the number of people across the rest of the UK in 2016/7. In England the figure was 27,559, in Scotland 1,834 and in Northern Ireland 204.

This means that a staggering 85.8% of individuals who have opted out of being organ donors in the UK currently live in Wales, despite the fact that the population of Wales represents just 4.8 of the UK population.

CARE’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs, Dr Dan Boucher

“CARE does not believe that the state should have an automatic right to a person’s individual organs. This approach undermines organ donation as a genuine gift and goes against the consensus that human beings have autonomy over their own bodies.”

“It also risks provoking a significant minority of people to withdraw themselves from donation, thereby reducing the stock of potential donors. In a context where people are dying every week for lack of available organs we cannot afford to do this.”

“CARE wholeheartedly supports the reasoning behind wanting to secure this debate; the numbers of people waiting for transplants is painfully high and more must be done to increase the pool of potential donors”

“The way forward must be to follow the example of Spain, which has the highest organ donation rates in the world, and operate an opt-in system which places a big emphasis on working with the families of the deceased to secure higher donation rates.”

Boucher concluded

“Based on organ donation data from the first full year of the opt-in system in Wales, the message for other UK jurisdictions tempted by the an opt-out system is - for the moment at least - leave well alone.”


Notes to the editor:

For more information please contact Rachael Adams on 020 7227 4731 / 07851 153693 or

CARE is a leading charity that works with MPs, Peers, MSPs and MLAs to lobby for changes in legislation relating to human dignity. You can read about the success we’ve had and our latest work here

CARE has undertaken policy work and has spoken out about why opt-out organ donation systems do not work previous to this. To read more about our work on this do click here


In proposing the new legislation the Welsh Government stated: ‘Evidence…suggests that introducing an opt-out type system could result in a 25 to 30 per cent increase in deceased organ donation rates which could equate to a further 15 donors each year in Wales, each of whom… on average might donate 3 organs. This means around 45 more organs could become available to the UK pool for transplantation.’ Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill Explanatory Memorandum incorporating the Regulatory Impact Assessment and Explanatory Notes 3 December 2012, Para 21

In Wales, in 2016/2017, the first full year in which presumed consent was operational, there were 61 deceased donors, facilitating 135 organ donations.    This constituted a decline of 3 donors and 33 organ donations over the previous year.

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