The Welsh government today published for consultation draft legislation to provide for a system of presumed consent for organ donations.
In what amounts to a genuinely pioneering measure across the UK, the Welsh government has today published for consultation draft legislation to provide for a system of presumed consent for organ donations.
Whilst figures show that over a third of people in Wales are now on the organ donor register with a corresponding 49% increase in donation rates since 2008, there nevertheless remains a shortage of donors, leading to the deaths of 37 people in Wales in 2011/12 due to a donor not being found in time.
Under the proposal, contained within the draft Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill out now for consultation, adults who live and die in Wales will have been deemed to have given consent for their organs to be used for transplant if they had not opted out of the system.
Ministers in Cardiff expect the reforms to take effect from 2015.
Arguing the measure would “save lives”, health minister Lesley Griffiths said of the proposals:
“One donor can improve or save the lives of up to nine other people by donating their organs and many more through the donation of their tissues. I believe the time has come to introduce a change in the law, together with an extensive communication and education programme encouraging people to make a decision and to ensure their families know their wishes.”
With the British Medical Association having already come out in support of the measure, an initial consultation in Wales found that 52 per cent of respondents supported the proposals with 39 per cent against. There is, though, vocal opposition.
In January, churches across Wales united in raising their fears over the impact of the changes with Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox leaders having argued that the “positive ethos of donation as a free gift” was being “endangered by an ill-judged if well-intentioned proposal to move from voluntary donation to presumed consent”.
While UK health secretary Andrew Lansley is known to be opposed to a move to presumed consent in England, Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to revisit the issue in 2013, and in Northern Ireland, Assembly Members passed a motion in February calling on health minister Edwin Poots to undertake a review of organ donation to include:
“All options for increasing organ donations and carrying out a clinical ethics consultation on the introduction of an opt-out scheme.”