Wales begins controversial ‘opt-out’ organ donation

Wales has become the first part of the UK to introduce presumed consent organ donation, in a controversial move.

From yesterday, adults over the age of 18 who have lived in Wales for more than a year will be assumed to have consented to donating their organs unless they opt out.

Last week, a Christian charity and a bioethics group warned that presumed consent will not necessarily increase the numbers of organs available and could lead to “serious mistakes”.

‘Precious gift’

Reacting to the move, the Rt Revd John Davies, Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, warned against ‘just taking organs’ and eradicating the sense of organs being a “gift”.

He said: “In the deeming of consent, there is always the risk that that idea of gift might vanish”.

“From a Christian or moral perspective, I think the idea of giving someone a precious gift is something much better than others presuming that that gift can be eradicated and just taken.”

Fall

Christian charity CARE for Scotland and the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics gave their views on organ donation last week, as the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee considers a Bill to change the law there.

CARE for Scotland said figures from countries where a similar system is in place actually show a fall in organ donations.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, CARE for Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer, said that while the proposed system ‘looks and sounds good’, it is “not proven to work”.

‘Serious mistakes’

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics (SCHB) said it “is extremely concerned about the potential for serious mistakes” as a result of the plans.

It raised questions over Authorised Investigating Persons – health professionals who would decide whether organs could lawfully be removed and used for transplants.

Director of Research at SCHB, Dr Calum MacKellar, said: “Instead of having to get the nearest relative, all that has to be done is that the Authorised Investigating Person states that they have not had access to the relatives or proxy and they – an NHS person – authorise the use of organs.”

Scotland, England and Northern Ireland still use an opt-in system for organ donation but ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland are believed to be paying close attention to what happens in Wales.

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