By CAROLINE WILSON
THERE is "strong international evidence" that a system of deemed consent leads to an increase in transplants, according to Welsh health officials.
Wales will make history on December 1 by becoming the first country in the UK to adopt an opt-out system, where consent is assumed if individuals have not registered an objection.
Around 24 countries in Europe use a system of presumed consent. Dr Chris Jones, Chief Medical Officer for Wales said that overall, the evidence favoured an automatic register.
He said if a system of deemed consent was replicated across the UK, it could result in "very significant" number of extra transplants.
The change is predicted to lead to an additional 15 donors each year in Wales - which has a population of around 3million - which could translate into 45-50 extra, potentially life-saving transplants.
With a population of around 5million in Scotland the figure is likely to be higher.
Dr Jones said if the change was replicated in England, it could lead to around 300 additional donors in England alone.
He said: "We would hope that if we were successful we would generate 15 more donors every year.
"On average each donor will provide two or three transplants so we are talking about 40 or 50 transplants.
"If that was replicated across the UK that would be a very significant number.
"Wales proportionately has a a population of about one twentieth of the size of England, so if England were to implement opt-out, then I would imagine we would estimating about 15 times 20 additional donors so about 300 additional donors.
"Overall, the international evidence is in favour of an opt-out, default arrangement. I think there is strong international evidence overall."
Labour MSP Anne McTaggart is driving forward a bill to introduce the transplant system in Scotland.
Dr Jones said the Welsh Government was ready to support Scotland "in any way it can."
He said recent survey which indicated that 89% of people in Wales are aware of the changes, was a mark of the success of the two-year publicity campaign.
Between 1 and 2% of the Welsh population has already registered an objection to organ donation since the new UK register was introduced, which give the public the right to opt out.
He said: "Since the new organ donor register was launched in June, with an opt out option, 38,000 in Wales have already opted out. That's between 1 and 2% of our population.
"We anticipate the number increasing as it gets closer to December 1, to around 10% or less."
A study carried out by the University of Nottingham, which analysed 48 countries around the world for 13 years, found that countries using deemed consent system had a higher total numbers of kidneys donated - the organ that the majority of people on organ transplant lists are waiting for.
Opt-out systems also had the greater overall number of organ transplants.
Dr Jones said: "It's also a highly cost-effective policy as well.
"If it created even two extra donors then it all the costs of implementation would returned.
"There is then the cost of dialysis and caring for people with long-term condition.
"However, it's not going to work alone. It's very important to keep going with all the other taskforce recommendations.
"The major issue is the need for public communication. We've known since the legislation was made law that there is a need for public awareness so that choices that people have to make are understood.
"So we've been running our biggest, ever public information campaign on the issue.
"Last month, ITV Wales carried out a poll which showed that 89% of people in Wales are aware of the changes, which we thought was excellent.
"NHSBT are training spcialist nurses in organ donation (SNODS) across the UK in how to look for an opt-out decision.
"Our health minister, Mr Drakeford has made is clear to health officials that he is very keen to support Scotland in any way we can if it's appropriate.
"It's going to need the support of your ministers. That will be the determining factor."
To register to become an organ donor visit www.organdonationscotland.org/optin