Church leaders in Wales have united to criticise “ill-judged” proposals for a system of presumed consent for organ donation.
Currently those who wish to donate their organs opt in by signing an organ donor register.
But the Welsh Government wants to switch to a system of presumed consent, and it is currently consulting on the proposal.
Now the Church in Wales, the Roman Catholic Church and the Wales Eastern Orthodox Mission have responded by warning that the proposals could “alienate” potential donors.
The churches said: “The positive ethos of donation as a free gift is endangered by an ill-judged if well intentioned proposal to move from voluntary donation to presumed consent.
“It is of extreme concern that while responses are being invited on the proposals in the White Paper, the central proposal, which is the shift from donation to presumed consent, is presented as a fait accompli.
“There is a real danger that a change in the law would alienate a significant proportion of the public and undermine the positive image of organ donation and the reputation of Wales.”
They add: “The belief that changing from opt-in to opt-out would improve the rate of transplantation is not justified by the available evidence.”
Last week health minister Lesley Griffiths said that there is a shortage of organs “and this is something the Welsh Government wants to change by introducing a new way of making a person’s wishes known”.
Some doctors are concerned that too many patients are being prematurely declared ‘dead’ so that their organs can be harvested while still fresh.
Last September Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, warned that presumed consent would bring “a subtle change of emphasis in the relationship between the individual and the state”.
He explained: “That is, unless we have opted out, our organs belong to the state and the state has the right to do with them as it wishes.”
And the Archbishop continued: “The implication, by default, is that the state can decide on our behalf. I think that compromises individual rights and freedoms and poses the moral question as to whether the state can make such decisions.”