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Doctors welcome 'ground-breaking' donor scheme in Wales

Doctors have welcomed ‘ground-breaking’ legislation to change the organ donation system in Wales.

The Welsh government has published its draft Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill, which proposes moving to an opt-out system to increase the number of organs for donation.

If passed, Wales could become the first part of the UK to move to an opt-out system. It would begin in 2015 and is expected to create an extra 15 organ donors every year. Last year 67 people from Wales became organ donors.

The BMA has been a vocal supporter of the opt-out system, which it believes will improve donation rates and will lead to fewer people dying while on the transplant waiting list,

BMA medical ethics committee chair Tony Calland said: ‘We’re very pleased the Welsh government has published this ground-breaking legislation and we are supportive of moving to opt-out. It will increase the number of available organs for people who desperately need them in Wales.’

Consent register

The draft bill proposes creating a single register, which will record the names of those people, over the age of 18 and who have lived in Wales for six months, who want to opt in to donation – to be known as express consent – and those who want to opt out from the process altogether.

Those people who do neither will be deemed to have given their consent and have made a positive decision to donate their organs and tissues.

Families will have no legal right to veto donation but, as now, donation will not go ahead if they are strongly opposed to it.

Welsh government figures suggest implementing opt-out will cost £5m between now and 2017 but officials said creating one extra donor would pay for the policy, in terms of the reduced cost of lifetime healthcare following a transplant.

Christian groups, including the Church in Wales, have questioned whether a change to an opt-out system will increase the number of donors. The charity CARE warned such a move would take ‘Wales down a dangerous path’.

Health and social services minister Lesley Griffiths said: ‘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.’

Join the NHS organ donor register