Whilst attempting to register with a GP I was faced with a mountain of forms. I raced through them (hoping my haste wouldn’t impact my future health) until I paused at the consent form for organ donation. I suspect that I am not alone in associating organ donation with many unpleasant things and, had I not had a serious conversation on the subject with my mother years ago, I may have simply ticked the “no” box as a knee-jerk emotional reaction. I was thus very interested to hear about the Welsh Assembly’s proposal for a soft ‘opt-out’ organ donation system.
The White Paper entitled Proposals for Legislation on Organ and Tissue Donation stipulates, in simple terms, that consent to being an organ donor is presumed unless the deceased opted out of the system.
Those in favour of presumed consent insist that it will increase the number of lives improved or saved. Every year in the UK, hundreds die while waiting for organs. In the case of Wales, one conservative estimate suggests that an opt-out system would provide 40 to 50 extra organs a year. This is not as novel a suggestion as some might think – Austria, Spain and France are just three examples of European countries that already have an opt-out system.
Conversely, there are those who challenge such legislation on the grounds that it is difficult to show that opt-out systems do increase the number of organ donors. Additionally, Glyn Davies, Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, has accused the presumed consent model of being statist and is appalled by a proposal that appears to equate a lack of objection with consent.
Whether or not it is implemented coverage of the proposal will surely trigger important debates across the UK, which has some of the lowest organ donation rates in Europe.