Body organs to be taken without consent in Wales
People in Wales could soon have their organs removed after death, even if they never expressly signed up to be donors when they were alive.
By Stephen Adams, Medical Correspondent
1:18PM BST 18 Jun 2012
The Welsh Government wants to introduce a system of organ donation called ‘presumed consent’, in which it is presumed individuals are happy to become donors in death, unless they opt out or family members strenuously object.
It has published a draft bill today setting out the legal framework. If approved, Wales will become the first part of the UK to instigate the controversial system, in 2015.
Ministers in Cardiff say the move would save lives, but opponents say it is deceitful to pretend lack of objection amounts to consent.
When prime minister, Gordon Brown threw his weight behind presumed consent, saying that he believed it would save many lives every year. However, a review by minister concluded the current opt-in system should stay.
That has not stopped the Welsh Government from pressing ahead with plans for what it is calling a “soft opt-out” system.
Under this, people living in Wales will be asked to either formally opt in to becoming an organ donor, or opt out.
Those over 18 who have failed to do either will be assumed to have made a positive decision to become organ donors in death.
Express permission from family members to take organs after death will no longer be needed.
Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Government’s Health Minister, said: “We are seeking a change in the law to increase the number of organ and tissue donors and to save lives.
“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.
“Wales has seen a 49 per cent increase in donation rates since 2008, which is a huge achievement to be proud of.
However, there is still a shortage of organs for transplant. In 2011/12, sadly, 37 people in Wales died while waiting for an organ.
“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.”
But Joyce Robins, of the group Patient Concern, said the law change “would allow taking organs without consent”, and to pretend otherwise was “dishonest and disrespectful”.
She said: “Giving organs to strangers voluntarily is as generous as it gets. The proposed law would allow taking organs without consent. Body organs to be taken without consent in Wales
“Everyone knows the absence of refusal is not consent. Pretending that it can be is dishonest and disrespectful. Provision of a right to opt-out is a smokescreen.
“Assurance that every citizen would hear of the new law, understand it, realise its implications, grasp how to opt-out and get around to doing so –it they wish – is pure fantasy.
“Inevitably organs would be taken from patients against their wishes. That is the object of this phony re-definition of consent.”
A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “It is important to stress the issue of donation will be approached sensitively and as now, families will still be involved in the process, which cannot go ahead without their assistance.”
He added: “Deemed consent will not apply to everyone – there will be safeguards for children, people who lack capacity and people who do not live in Wales.”