Have Welsh organ consent laws made a difference to patients waiting for transplants?

Hailed as a “bold step”, Wales’s presumed consent law aimed to revolutionise organ donation here.

But two years since its inception, some are now questioning whether the legislation has made any real difference to Welsh patients waiting for transplants?

On tonight’s Y Byd ar Bedwar on S4C, 24-year-old Llio Dudley from Garndolbenmaen, who herself received a kidney from her sister two years ago, travels around Wales to discuss presumed consent and to meet some of the people on the transplant waiting list.

At the NHS Blood and transplant office in Tongwynlais, Llio meets specialist nurse Lucy Barnes. She is called by doctors to discuss organ donation with a patient’s next of kin when survival is unlikely.

Lucy Barnes is transplant specialist nurse. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The number of transplants to Welsh patients from deceased donors appears to have remained fairly steady:

  • 157 in 2013/14

  • 128 in 2014/15

  • 168 in 2015/16

  • 135 in 2016/17

  • 67 in the first 2 quarters this year

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething maintains these statistics do not demonstrate the policy has failed.

Since the law was implemented on December 1st 2015, the Welsh Government say the presumed consent law has been applied 64 times. But the organs of just 27 of those people have been transplanted to patients.

According to the NHSBT, it is impossible to say these are additional organs as the families would previously have been consulted.

Wales is the only nation in the UK to have brought in presumed consent legislation. But despite the change in the law here, it does not mean that organs donated in Wales are destined for Welsh patients.

When asked whether those organs were donated to Welsh patients, the NHSBT said it would take a long time to retrieve the relevant information.

They also explained that organs could be given to those in need in other UK countries or the EU but that Welsh patients could also receive organs from donors in other parts of the UK.

Y Byd ar Bedwar: Aros yn ofer? will be broadcast tonight at 9.30pm.

Y Byd ar Bedwar is produced by ITV Wales for S4C.