'Opt-Out' Organ Donor Law Worries Critics in Scotland; Rule Up for Review

A parliamentary committee in Scotland revealed that it is planning to review a new proposal for organ donations known as "presumed consent" after it was brought forth by legislators.

At issue is the recently introduced Human Transplant Bill, which was written in an effort to help increase the amount of available organs for transplant in Wales.

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.

"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 BBC.

The committee is now tasked with reviewing if the change in organ donation law would go to increase the amount of available organs for transplant and is requesting evidence from health boards and transplant experts to determine whether such measures help increase organ donation efficiency.

Critics have raised serious concerns about presumed consent for organ donations, insisting that such a system turns human organs into the property of the state. There has been wide support for an opt-out system, with a petition highlighting such support after collecting over 10,000 signatures, according to Scotland's Public Petitions Committee.

However, bioethicist Agneta Sutton, senior lecturer at the University of Chichester, warned that an "opt-out" system would lead to a commodification of organs, which would have an adverse effect by potentially limiting the amount of organs available for transplant.

"Organ donation is a life saver. And let us hope it remains a gift," Sutton read in a statement.

Yet government officials maintain 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. Many decided 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.