Presumed consent for organ donation was voted through by Welsh Assembly members last night, in a move deemed “unnecessary and unethical”.
The new system, due to come into force in 2015, would mean patients who are over 18 and have lived in Wales for more than a year are automatically put on the organ donor register unless they opt out.
During the five-hour-long debate on the Bill, shadow health minister Darren Millar said the system change remains “controversial” and warned about the possible “unintended consequences”.
He referred to evidence from Chile, which showed that introducing an opt-out system could result in a lower number of organ donors.
Dr Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said before the vote: “Introducing this legislation would be a radical new step, which is both unnecessary and unethical as a way of increasing organ donation rates.”
He also said: “I strongly support organ donation but so-called ‘presumed consent’ involves neither consent nor donation – it is neither voluntary nor informed and involves taking organs rather than giving them.”
“It means effectively that the state will be able to overrule families and there is a very real danger that it could also prove counterproductive and undermine trust leading to fewer rather than more donations.”
And Joyce Robbins, of Patient Concern, said: “This legislation will result in human bodies being treated like clapped-out cars.
“You strip them of parts for reuse, unless the owner prefers to scrap the whole vehicle.
“It’s outrageous to pretend that people feel no differently about a human heart from a used car horn.”
The Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford said the legislation is a “progressive policy” for a “progressive nation”.
He told Assembly members that the Welsh government will review the system five years after it becomes law.
Assembly members voted in favour of a change in the law by 43 votes to eight, with two abstentions.
The 30-strong Labour group in the assembly was whipped to back the Bill.
The Westminster Department of Health is not in favour of an opt-out system for organ donation, after an independent taskforce recommended against it in 2008.