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Wales This Week, From the Heart

In a special episode, tonight's Wales this Week looks at Organ Donation and speaks to those whose lives have been transformed as a result

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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The Kidney Wales Foundation says the current system is outdated and needs reform.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.

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Wales vote on organ donation

Operating theatre
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.

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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.

Organ donation plans 'need further clarification'

The Welsh Government's plans would see people having to opt-out if they don't want their organs to be donated. Credit: PA

The National Assembly's Health and Social Care Committee has said there needs to be more clarification around plans to introduce a system of presumed consent on organ donation in Wales.

It has called for further "clarity and consistency on the question of whether the family would be able to provide information about the wishes of their loved one or whether they would have a veto over donation taking place."

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From the Heart: the ITV team in Wales joins in

Weather presenter James Wright shows his support for the campaign Credit: ITV News

ITV's 'From the Heart' campaign is running all week to raise awareness of organ donation and the NHS Donor Register.

Our team has been showing support by making the 'hand heart' symbol.

At 9pm tonight, there'll be a special ITV programme to celebrate the campaign - featuring Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Pixie Lott, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse.

Health Reporter Rob Osborne

'Very few contraindications' to organ donation

Today sees the culmination of ITV's From The Heart campaign aiming to get more people on the organ transplant register.

Transplant surgeon Mr Argiris Asderakis says it is often a 'misconception' that some people aren't suitable donors due to age or health.

He also said the organs of those who die in intensive care can often still be used.

There are very few absolute contraindications to organ donation. Most patients who die in appropriate circumstances in intensive care can be potential donors - provided they don't have an active tumour or that particular organ hasn't failed. There are some who will have kidney failure at that stage, but they can still donate their liver, for example.

– Mr Argiris Asderakis
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