Welsh leading the way on organ donation

Organ donation: have you 'opted in'?
Organ donation: have you 'opted in'?
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Devolution of power to parts of the United Kingdom which are not England has been an example of the law of unforeseen consequences.

Ed Milliband didn’t see how the outcome of the Scottish Referendum would derail his ambitions to become Prime Minister of the still United Kingdom.

Gary Rycroft.

Gary Rycroft.

While much attention has been focused on our friends in Scotland, the Welsh have been quietly getting on with their own devolved law making.

A new Welsh Law which is sure to make headlines throughout the UK is the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 which comes into force in December. The Act introduces the idea of presumed consent for organ donation, the exact opposite of the legal position in the rest of the UK.

At present the law requires an opt in, so only a person who has taken the positive step of signing up to an Organ Donation Register, or whose family consent, are considered in law to have given consent to organ donation. From December hospitals will be able to presume persons aged over 18 who have lived in Wales for more than 12 months want to donate organs and tissue, unless there has been a opt out by that person.

While clearly the intention is to drive up the number of successful transplants, a law of presumed consent raises many issues of a legal, moral and philosophical nature. I applaud the Welsh for cutting through all that and getting on with it. Many patients die waiting for an organ and many lives could be improved by tissue donation.

I have to admit I mulled it over for a number of years before signing up to the Organ and Tissue Donation Register. In the end it was while doing the mundane job of renewing my Vehicle Registration Tax online that something popped up and I signed up. So well done whoever thought of that online prompt.

It will be interesting to see if the rest of the UK follow the lead of the Welsh with presumed consent. Again, I suspect the answer to that will not be legal, moral or philosophical, but more a question of it being seen how many lives are saved or improved.