The Welsh Government intends to bring forward legislation soon, where instead of opting in to be an organ donor and therefore signing a card, it will be assumed that everyone is willing to donate their organs after death unless they have opted out. The trouble at the moment is that whereas 90% of the population say that they would be willing to be organ donors, only a third have signed the national register or carry a donor card. So the Government in Wales (but in no other part of the UK) proposes to bring in a law where it will be presumed that you are willing to donate your organs after death unless you have specifically opted not to do so.
One can understand the thinking behind all this. Most European States have more donors per head of population than Britain. In the UK as a whole, there are around 10,000 people waiting at any one time for a new heart, kidney or liver and three people a day die because there is no suitable organ ready for them. The waiting list for a kidney patient is three years whilst heart and liver patients wait on average six months. Organ transplants have a phenomenal degree of success these days and 90% of transplanted organs function really well a year after surgery and patients who have received them can often live for a decade or two.
The Welsh Government, sensitive to the fact that this is quite a radical departure, also proposes what it calls the “soft opt-out option” ”“ relatives will be able to have the right of veto on organ donation. Yet, although all this is admirable in its intention, I feel a bit uneasy, not about organ donations or transplants because there are strict guidelines governing these and gifting organs is a laudable practice, but about presumed consent.