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Wales to have opt-out organ donation

05 July 2013

by a staff reporter


"Christian generosity": Dr Morgan gives blood at Cardiff City Stadium (see story below)

"Christian generosity": Dr Morgan gives blood at Cardiff City Stadium (see story below)

WALES will become the first country in the UK to introduce an opt-out organ-donation system, the Welsh Assembly has decided.

The change to "presumed consent" would allow organs and tissues to be removed, even if the deceased had never signed up to being a donor while alive.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, is among the critics of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill. Becoming a donor was a "great act of love", he said. Presumed consent would change it into a "medical use of a body".

Representatives of the Muslim Council of Wales and the South Wales Jewish Representative Council also oppose the Bill.

In a joint statement on Monday, senior health professionals and other religious leaders called for a "soft opt-out scheme", to give deceased patients' families a say. They urged Assembly members to amend the Bill.

The signatories, who include Dr Morgan and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Revd George Stack, said: "The law must be amended in this way if it is not to be inhuman, unfeeling before the suffering of relatives, and a danger to the public trust and support which are necessary for the practice of organ donation to flourish. Without this there is a real danger that the law could backfire."

The change was carried, however, after a vote late on Tuesday night. Forty-three of the 60 Assembly members backed the Bill, eight voted against, and there were two abstentions.

The Welsh Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, spoke of "an historic day for Wales". "Wales is a progressive nation, and this is a progressive policy for that progressive nation," he said.

The Welsh government hopes that the legislation will lead to a rise of about one quarter in the number of donors. The new law will come into force by 2015. It will apply to over-18s who die in Wales if they have lived there for more than 12 months.

The public-affairs officer for the Christian charity CARE, Dan Boucher, said after the vote: "If the Bill does not respect either the consent of the deceased or of their family, there is a real risk of this legislation backfiring, as people feel pressurised by the state and withdraw from donation. This would be a tragedy and needlessly put lives at risk."

BLOOD and organ donation is an act of Christian generosity, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said, as he urged people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donation Register.

He was photographed (above) donating blood at Cardiff City Stadium.

The Church in Wales is the latest signatory of the Flesh and Blood campaign, run by the NHS and church denominations and charities, including the Salvation Army, Methodists, Baptists, and the United Reformed Church, as well as the Church of England.

Dr Morgan said: "As Christians we believe that offering our organs and our blood to save lives is love in action and part of what it means to love our neighbours. So donating our organs as a gift goes to the heart of what it is to be a disciple of Jesus. That is why I carry a donor card, and strongly urge as many people as possible to register online."

Four hundred units of blood are needed in Wales each day to meet hospital demand, and approximately 12,000 extra blood donors are needed each year to maintain consistency.

The director of the Welsh Blood Service, Dr Geoff Poole, said: "All major faith groups support donation in the spirit of giving, and we're excited to explore this in more detail by working with the Christian Church. By raising awareness amongst its members and community about the daily need for blood transfusions and organ transplants across the NHS, we hope to banish myths, educate people, and encourage blood and organ donation. Donating blood is a unique gift, and one that can truly save lives."


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