'Opt-out' organ system becomes law in Wales
A new law creating the first opt-opt organ donation system in the UK is to be rubber-stamped at a special ceremony on September 10.
The Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill was overwhelmingly passed by Welsh Assembly Members earlier this year - with ministers saying it would drive up transplant rates and save lives.
First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones will perform the official sealing ceremony to mark the final stage in the passing of the Bill before it is given Royal Assent.
It is also expected that details of when the new law will come into effect will be announced.
The Welsh Government has long said there is a desperate need to drive up transplantation rates - with 226 people in Wales waiting for a transplant.
Officials hope the new legislation will increase donors by around a quarter.
Once implemented, people will have to choose not to donate their organs and it would apply to over-18s who die in Wales if they have lived in the country 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 would not only go to donor patients in Wales. They could go anywhere in the UK.
The scheme faced opposition from some religious groups, which claimed it would make conscripts out of donors.
But ministers have denied this and described the system as a “soft opt-out”.
They say it will allow relatives or “friends of long standing” to object to someone’s organs being used if they had not asked to be removed from the register. The final decision will rest with medical staff if they decide to continue with the process - provided a match has been found.
No organs donated in Wales under this method will go anywhere else in the UK and vice-versa.
Health minister Mark Drakeford described the new law as historic.
“I am proud that Wales will be the first nation in the UK to take this step,” he said.
“Family refusal is a major factor that affects the numbers of organ donations and the main reason for refusal is lack of knowledge of their loved one’s wishes.
“The family of the potential donor has a major role to play in organ donation. The aim of the Bill has always been to respect the wishes of the deceased. However, relatives or friends of long standing may object to consent being deemed based on what they know about the views of the deceased.
“When family members know that organ donation is what the deceased would have wanted, they usually agree to participate in the donation process.
“The new law will work by clarifying people’s wishes around the issue of organ donation and, in turn, increase the rate of consent to donation.”
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