Newly Proposed UK Organ Donor Legislation is Raising Concerns

There is considerable concern growing in the United Kingdom and Wales after legislators introduced legislation that would change the current organ donation system, which has some critics worried.

The Welsh Government introduced the Human Transplant Bill on Monday, contending that the new legislation would help to increase the amount of available organs for transplant. They intend to pass the law by the summer of 2013.

"The shortage of suitable organs across the U.K. continues to cause unnecessary deaths and suffering, both to patients and their families waiting for that life-saving transplant," Delyth Lloyd, of the British Heart Foundation in Wales, told the BBC.

Essentially the bill would change the current opt-in system of organ donation, where individuals make their intentions known on state documents regarding organ donation. That would be replaced with an opt-out system, which would automatically assume a person wishes to have their organs harvested unless otherwise noted.

Doctors would only abstain if the deceased individual had previously opted-out of having their organs removed. Researchers contend that the change in the system would lead to an increase of between 13-18 percent in available organs for transplant every year for the 250-400 people waiting for transplants in Wales.

People opposed to the new measure raise several concerns regarding the change in organ collection- none more sensitive than fulfilling the final wishes of a deceased loved one. That was also one of the main reasons why the Welsh government introduced this bill.

Officials explained the majority of potential organs were passed over as a result of relatives and family members not knowing the intentions or final wishes of their dead loved ones and deciding not to offer organs for donations because of it.

The Welsh government insists that with the new legislation, doctors would not add to the stress of a grieving family by insisting on collecting the deceased organs, but maintains that the family would have no veto option in the matter.

"The wishes of the deceased are paramount and the vast majority of the people of Wales do expect their wishes to be what really counts," Welsh Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said in a statement.

"For that reason, as is the case now, the family has no legal right to veto but, in practice, a clinician would never add to their distress by insisting on donation," she added.

Other questions regarding the ethical nature of the new measure are also being raised. The Archbishop of Wales has been cautious to endorse this particular measure, citing a conflict of sovereignty over one's organs as it relates to the relationship between the individual and the state.