Organ donation opt-out system given go-ahead in Wales

The Welsh assembly on Tuesday evening The Welsh assembly debated a series of amendments to the Bill

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A change in the law to bring in an opt-out organ donation system has been overwhelmingly voted through by Welsh assembly members.

Wales will become the first UK country to adopt a process where individuals will be presumed to have consented for their organs to be donated unless they opt out.

Ministers want to increase the number of donors for transplant.

The new presumed consent system could come into force by 2015.

Some 43 of the 60 assembly members backed the bill, eight voted against and there were two abstentions.

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford said it was "an historic day for Wales" which had "demonstrated the huge strengths of this assembly".

Start Quote

Wales is a progressive nation and this is a progressive policy for that progressive nation”

End Quote Mark Drakeford AM Health Minister

"Wales is a progressive nation and this is a progressive policy for that progressive nation," he said.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams said she hoped the Bill would mean more people would benefit from organ donation, "that most altruistic of gifts".

Plaid Cymru AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas said the discussion and the process which had led to the final vote had showed the assembly was "capable of creating good law here".

But Conservative AM Darren Millar, shadow minister for health, insisted there was "still much work to do".

"The coming months and years must now be spent intensively educating families and communities the length and breadth of Wales," he added.

"This is a significant change from the previous system that remains controversial - and no stone must be left unturned in getting the message across."


  • The aim of the Bill is to increase the number of organs available from Wales, potentially by 25%
  • On latest figures this would see the number of donors rise from around 65 donors to 80.
  • The average number of transplants anticipated from 15 additional donors would be approximately 26 kidneys, 10 livers, two hearts and four lungs
  • Just over 30% of organs donated in Wales are transplanted into people living in Wales

There had been opposition to the changes from Christian churches and from within the Muslim and Jewish communities.

They wanted a so-called "soft opt-out scheme" in the legislation to give deceased patients' families a say on donation if their relative had neither opted in or out.

But the Welsh government hopes the legislation will lead to a rise in the number of donors by around 25%.

Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh Secretary of the British Medical Association (BMA), said the assembly had shown "the rest of the UK the way forward" with the legislation, adding: "Patients across the country will now benefit directly or indirectly benefit from this Bill."

Roy J. Thomas, chief executive of Kidney Wales Foundation, said: "The new law gives hope for all those waiting for a transplant in Wales and will gladden the hearts of those in the UK who see this as a sign that other parts of the UK may follow this vote."

Waiting list

Assembly members debated the issue before voting on the opt-out system late on Tuesday evening.

Speaking before the vote, Mr Millar called for an independent evaluation of the new system to be carried out once it was up and running, as it was possible there could be "unintended consequences" from presumed consent.

He warned that evidence from Chile, since it had introduced such a system, showed that it could result in a fall in the number of organ donors.

Mr Drakeford assured AMs that the Welsh government had already committed to reviewing the new system five years after it became law.

As currently happens, organs could go to recipients anywhere in the UK, not just in Wales.

However evidence from other countries with an opt-out system indicates that the rise is small with around 15 additional donors provided each year and approximately 45 extra organs.

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According to the NHS Blood and Transplant service, fewer than 5,000 people die every year in the UK in circumstances that would allow them to donate successfully.

Added to that, when compatibility, organ suitability, location, time scales and consent are taken into account it means that not everyone who wants to donate actually does.

It is estimated there are around 250 people on a waiting list for a transplant at any one time - 33 people in Wales died in 2012/13 while waiting.

The 30-strong Labour group in the assembly was whipped to vote in favour of the Bill. Conservative and Plaid Cymru AMs had a free vote.

The Lib Dems said all five of their AMs were in favour of presumed consent.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    to have an organ your waiting for the RIGHT PERSON TO DIE your effectivly hoping for another person to DIE BEFORE YOU!that is the realism of it all!try gettingyour head around that!at the end of the day another family is effect by organ donations too its not just oneside!its a choice people have rights to choose to give or not, if I donate its out of my choice not coz the gov says so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Im all for organ donations etc,but I believe it should be out of choice its a gift not a everyone should be forced into it etc,What about people who have no family its just a quick way to by pass all the stuff & cut open people with no second thoughts&thats where this is wrong.I will be opting out because Im already seen as cattle in this country a (cash cow)I do not wish to be seen as meat too.

  • Comment number 165.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    I can't believe some people on here would rather take away another human being's chance of living than admit that sometimes people are just too lazy to opt into things like organ donation. Principles are all well and good but they should never come at the expense of life, human or otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    carwyn jones and kirsty Williams the new burke and hare . when will the welsh MPs understand that they do not have the right to decide what happens to a persons organs its a gift freely given by the person involved not presumed by any politician .Get back to sorting out the economy, National health and education, in which the welsh government have failed. I for one will opt out on principle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Surgeons are the last bastion of the NHS, yet make pressure-induced mistakes. Quick “save the organs” decisions? The status quo is best. We logically leave our bodies to family, which protects us when alive. Present relatives say Yes & often No. This is trying to avoid the "No" via stealth, but gambles on having minimal opt-outs! Fix NHS then have UK discussion, not more unwanted regionalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    160.cynical steve
    You shouldn't need a form to do that. Your body is your most provate possession. Not some grave-robbing rabid Marxist's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Nothing politicians do suprises me anymore.

    As soon as a form is available I shall take control of my body organs back from the politicians and make my own mind up in my own good time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I agree. Give preferential treatment to those registered to donate. Not absolute priority, but bump them up the transplant list a bit, according to how long they've been registered.
    This will encourage people to register without making arrogant assumptions.
    Re your question: Yes, I will feel exactly the same if I need a transplant - no sense of entitlement to another person's organs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    I registered with the bloody BBC just to post this comment: To everyone here saying they'll opt-out when the time comes: Good God. Seriously. It's this kind of attitude which makes me think to Hell with it - let's adopt the Chinese system where you only get an organ if you're already on the donor list yourself. If you're ever on the waiting list for a lung, will you really feel this way then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Look here is the thing, and this is all you who are forgetting, it should be automatically opt in, Aldhey Hospital actually proved, and showed us what doctors can do when they have lax rules. This is not about being against organ donation or not, about the choice, and it shoudl be where we get a donor card, and do it the old way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Oh heaven forbid some of you might want to save the life of your fellow man instead of opting out. I hope you turn down the organs of those you may receive in this scheme if you feel so strongly about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I thought we lived in a democracy no-one can tell us what to do with our bodies they need to perfect the N.H.S in Wales first as its a absolute shambles before we can begin to trust they will do the correct things with our organs.How do we know the decision to opt out will be noted officially or will this go missing blaming it on an administration error

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    3 Mendo Shutaro. If you opt out, you have blood on your hands, it's that simple.

    People also die through lack of food. Will you allow someone to eat your body when you die? If you don't, "you have blood on your hands, it's that simple."
    It's the same argument.

    The question is not whether it will extend lives. The question is do they have the right to make this presumption? They don't. Period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    I was going to leave the decision about what happened to my body after I died to my family who may or may not have wanted my organs donated. Now to make it easier for them I will be opting out ,that's one less possible donor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Let me guess not in Wales? I am in Wales so yes this does affect me. Slavery was outlawed! How we respect the dead says alot about the human race. Open pandoras box, and something will come out that you cant put back in the box. Oh yes guess what there will be people like me who will opt out of principle. To preserve my rights and freedoms, and what little dignity I will have left when I die!

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Please answer the question. Or, is your answer - what ever the majority want, the mob, your answer?

    P.s. the majority of blacks were slaves in the south, they couldn't "opt out" could they.

    Do you think it wrong of me to open your casket, and take your eyes, at your funeral then - if you never filled out the "opt out" form?

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    The thing that is scary is the presumption. If I went into a shop and took a chocolate bar, and got caught I would not get away with it saying "I presumed they was giving it me!". By the government presumption of me willing to give my organs could be called theft. So what is next, if my body is not my own, then that means everyone in UK are slaves. Which was supposed to of been abolished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Should we expect compulsory blood donation next? I am signed up as an organ donor but that was from choice not co-ercion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Sally comment 136 "Why don't you have to opt out of slavery?"

    Why don't you have to opt in to justice, police, school, or having a doctor? Common sense and consensus says that these are all things that the vast majority want, just as most don't want to be a slave.

    Organ donation seems to be more evenly matched. But for the sake of saving lives, you'll have to fill in a form to opt out. Poor you.


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