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Quick guide to new law on organ donation in Wales

Later today Assembly Members will vote on whether to change the law on organ donation. Credit: PA

A radical shake-up of the law on organ donations is to be voted on today by Welsh Assembly politicians.

If they back the bill, Wales will become the first country in the UK to have an "opt-out" system. This would mean that in the event of death, a person's organs could be used without giving consent.

Ministers in Cardiff Bay say there is a desperate need to drive up transplantation rates - with 226 people in Wales waiting for a transplant - and they hope the new system will drive up rates by around a quarter.

If passed the presumed consent system could come into force by 2015.

The Welsh Government says it would have to spend at least £8m on publicising the changes.

It would apply to over-18s who die in Wales if they have lived in Wales for more than 12 months.

Organs available would be the same as the "opt-in" method - including kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas .

Organs would not only go to donor patients in Wales. They could go anywhere in the UK.

The health minister says organs would not be taken unless a family member is present.

Religious leaders describe it as a "conscription" system which could distress bereaved families.

Some critics say evidence from other countries with the system shows it has not produced any real changes.

The matter will be debated in the Assembly at around 4pm. It is scheduled to last around two hours before a vote is taken.

Click here for the government's Human Transplantation Bill for Wales.

Change in law could lead to more organs being available

The Kidney Wales Foundation says the current system is outdated and needs reform. They say that one person dies every week in Wales waiting for an organ transplant.

The UK is one of the lowest donor rate countries in Europe. The new Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill is a new progressive law. We are proud to have led the debate in favour of this law.

– Roy J Thomas, Chief Executive of Kidney Wales

Waiting for an organ is an extremely difficult time for anyone - it is like being on death row and it seems as if you are being further punished for being ill. Mentally, it is cruel for the patient and the caring family.

– Melanie Wagner, who received a new kidney in 2010


New organ donation law 'could backfire'

Faith leaders and some senior health professionals are calling on the Welsh government to amend the proposal to take more account of the wishes of bereaved families. They say 93% of people in Wales support a system where the family should be able to stop organs being taken if they object.

The signatories, including the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, and the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, George Stack, want ministers to support amendments to the Bill to ensure this 'soft opt-system' is in place.

Without it, they say, the law would be inhumane and uncaring of the feelings of relatives. It could also damage public trust and support when people fully realise the Bill's implications.

Wales vote on organ donation

Currently people must sign a register in order to donate organs Credit: Chris Ison PA Archive

Welsh assembly members are set to vote on a change to the law governing organ donation. If the legislation is passed Wales will become the only part of the UK where doctors will presume that consent has been given in favour of donation, without people signing a register.

The Welsh government says that the views of friends and relatives will still be taken into consideration, but religious leaders are concerned that this does not go far enough in giving bereaved relatives a say.

The current system relies on people making their wishes known, but only around 30% of the population are on the Organ Donor Register. Campaigners say the result of this is that potential donors are missed because families often do not know what their deceased relative would have wanted.

  1. National

Welsh health minister: Majority of people wish to donate

Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford has argued that a new scheme that assumes consent for organ donation will increase the number of organs available for transplant.

He highlighted the fact that surveys have shown that a majority of Welsh people wish to be a donor.

Deemed consent will bring about a cultural shift in the way donation proceeds in Wales.

It will alter the nature of some of the most difficult conversations that any family might face, and it will help to ensure that the wishes of that substantial majority of Welsh citizens who say, in survey after survey, that they would wish to be a donor, are put into practice in those very rare and special circumstances when donation is possible.

– Mark Drakeford, health minister for wales

Minister will strengthen relatives' organ donation rights

The Health Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that he will amend the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill to make it clear that relatives must be involved and must be given the opportunity to object to the presumption that someone was willing to donate their organs after their death.

Deemed consent donation will not go ahead in the absence of any family member. The presence of the family is essential – both as a source of necessary information about the potential donor and in order to ensure that donation does not go ahead in the face of the deceased’s known objection to organ donation. That position will now be reflected on the face of the Bill. I will bring forward an amendment ... which will provide a clear right of objection for family members, where they can confirm that a potential donor would not have wished donation to take place.

– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM

Mr Drakeford was introducing the legislation into the Senedd. He said he was responding to the view of the Assembly's Health Committee, which he chaired when it considered the legislation before he became a minister.

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