By Julia McWatt
Sep. 9, 2013 5:48 PM
Historic legislation which will see Wales become the first UK nation to introduce a system of presumed consent has been officially passed.
First Minister Carwyn Jones performed the official sealing of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill after the legislation received Royal Assent, completing the final stage in the legislative process.
The changes, which bring in a system of deemed consent, will come into effect on December 1, 2015.
In July, AMs voted in favour of introducing a system of presumed consent for organ donation in a bid to drive up the number of donors.
Under the Bill, people over the age of 18 who have been a resident in Wales for more than 12 months will have to put in place a clear indication of their wish not to donate their organs for them to be excluded from donation after death, otherwise their consent will be deemed to have been given.
People can continue to opt in, opt out under a new “opt out” register, or choose not to act and be deemed to have given their consent.
Although organs donated in Wales can be given to recipients across the UK, as is presently the case, the Welsh Government expects to see an increase of 25% available in Wales alone.
The completion of the legislative process comes more than seven years after calls were first made for the introduction a system of presumed consent in Wales.
During the process, it was met with opposition from a number of faith groups, while major concerns had also been raised issues such as the role of the family.
Under the legislation, families will have a “clear right of objection” if they can prove to clinicians that they knew the wishes of the deceased.
Mr Jones said: “The Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 is arguably the most significant piece of legislation passed by the National Assembly for Wales since it acquired full lawmaking powers in 2011.
“Many people will wait years for a transplant but sadly, many die waiting on the list. The shortage of human organs continues to cause otherwise preventable deaths and suffering.
This law will not only help reduce the waiting list, but will also help save lives by reducing the number of people who needlessly die waiting for an organ transplant.
“I would like to give my personal thanks to all those involved in the passage of the Bill. We know that a tremendous amount of work went into this Bill and a lot of issues had to be brought together and a lot of problems had to be resolved.”
A two-year publicity campaign will now be launched, explaining the changes before they are brought in at the end of 2015.
Health Minster Mark Drakeford said: “Today is the climax of one part of the process and the start of the next. This is a momentous day in the history of the Welsh Government and I am proud to have been the Health Minister in post when this seminal piece of legislation came into being.
“We are now looking forward to the hard work the we need to do until the act becomes law. A lot of work has been going on since the Assembly’s part came to an end. I want to make sure that we get the full benefits of the two-year period. We need to make sure we reach groups that may not have access to the general message.
“During this two year campaign, people will be given plenty of information on how the new system works and what their choices are. Even today though people can help others by ensuring their loved ones know their wishes about organ donation and I would encourage everyone to have that conversation.”
Dr Richard Lewis, the British Medical Association’s Welsh Secretary, said: “This is a historic day for Wales. BMA Cymru Wales has fought long and hard with other campaigners, for the organ donation bill. I’m pleased that Wales is leading the way on this issue and is at the forefront of registering the needs of the patients who are desperately waiting for organs.”