Expert criticises opt-out donor system as 'madness'

A transplant expert has criticised the proposed system of presumed consent organ donation in Wales as "madness" and a waste of money.

John Faber, professor of clinical science at Kings College London, said there was no evidence to support an "opt-out" system would increase rates.

Currently, people must carry donor cards or express their wishes to family.

The Welsh government supports a new law.

People in Wales have just two weeks left to have their say on introducing a system of presumed consent.

"To spend vast amounts of NHS money on this is madness," prof Faber told BBC Wales.

"We obviously need to increase our rate of organ donation but presumed consent is not the way forward.

"It will cost the NHS a lot money."

Consultation on the Organ Donation White Paper ends on 31 January, with public meetings taking place in Swansea and Newport this week.

'Saving lives'

The latest figures show Wales has reached a deceased organ donation rate of 27.7 per million people (pmp), compared to the UK average rate of 16.3 pmp.

It places Wales above many other European countries, including France (23.8 pmp), Italy (21.6 pmp) and Belgium (20.5 pmp), which already has a system of presumed consent, according to figures for 2010.

Roy Thomas, chair of Kidney Wales, supports presumed consent.

"One person dies every week in Wales waiting for an organ transplant despite strides in the UK," he said.

"The UK has one of the lowest donor rates in Europe and things need to change.

"It's not about cost, it's about saving lives."

Mr Thomas said there was sufficient evidence to show presumed consent would increase donor rates by "about 25 to 30%".

But Prof Faber said cost was clearly an issue.

"Spain has had the best organ donation rates in the world for many years," he said.

"The United States has one of the best rates and neither country has a presumed consent system. So the idea that presumed consent will somehow improve organ donation is really untenable.

"There's no point just doing anything - you have to do something that's effective."

After the consultation ends, the Bill will be introduced to the Welsh assembly later this year or in 2013, although the new system would not take effect until 2015.