Opt-out scheme for organ donation given go-ahead in Wales

People will be considered as having consented for organ donation unless they use the 'opt-out' system

Wales is set to become the first country in the UK where people will be considered to have consented for organ donation unless they specifically opt out.

The current system across the UK relies on people signing up to a voluntary scheme and carrying a donor card stating they are willing to donate their organs.

Now ministers in Cardiff Bay who are keen to drive up low transplant rates believe the new scheme will save countless lives.

A Bill for Wales to adopt a system of presumed consent passed its final stage in the Welsh Assembly last night - despite moral objections from religious groups and concerns about it adding greater distress to bereaved family members.

Assembly Members (AMs) voted in favour of the Bill by 43 votes to eight, with two abstentions.

The new consent law would mean that people aged 18 and over will have to choose not to donate their organs when they die if they have lived in Wales for more than 12 months.

Organs made available under the system would be the same as the “opt-in” method - including kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas - and could be donated anywhere in the UK.

Ministers have stressed the scheme will be implemented sensitively and are planning to launch a major publicity drive to ensure people are fully informed about which choice to make.

The Bill was guaranteed success as the 30-strong Labour group in the Assembly was whipped to vote in favour.

Conservative and Plaid Cymru AMs were given a free vote, and the Lib Dems said all five of their AMs backed the opt-out system.

The new law is set to come into force after the Welsh Government has launched a two-year £8 million publicity campaign in 2015 and has been described as a historic event by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The BMA's secretary in Wales Dr Richard Lewis said: “This is the most important piece of legislation created in Wales since the laws of Hywel Dda. Patients across the country will now benefit directly or indirectly from this Bill.”

The Welsh Government has long said there is a desperate need to drive up transplantation rates as 226 people in Wales continue to wait for a transplant. They now hope it will increase donors by around a quarter.

Despite five years in the making, the issue was still hotly contested for five hours in the Senedd - with AMs from the Assembly's four parties mulling over more than 70 amendments.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford said regulations would need to be drawn up on which organs would not feature on the list. He did confirm that tissues definitely exempt would be limbs as well as face transplants.

Roy J Thomas, chief executive of Kidney Wales Foundation, said: “Deemed consent has a positive and sizeable effect on organ donation rates of some 25% to 35% higher on average in presumed consent countries.

”One person dies every week in Wales waiting for an organ transplant”, he added. “Three people die a day in the UK.”

Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This is a special and historic moment for a part of the UK that has decided to stand up and make a life-saving change.

“The Welsh have become the standard bearers and now other UK governments must join them and introduce opt-out legislation of their own.

“The system, where everyone is considered a donor unless they say otherwise, will help increase the number of available organs and better reflect the wishes of the majority of the UK.”

However those views were not shared by campaign group Patient Concern.

Spokeswoman Joyce Robbins said: “This legislation will result in human bodies being treated like clapped-out cars. You strip them of parts for re-use, unless the owner prefers to scrap the whole vehicle.

“It's outrageous to pretend that people feel no differently about a human heart from a used car horn. The risks of turning off support for transplantation far outweigh the possibility of increased organ supply.”

Additional reporting by PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory