LONDON - A proposal by the Welsh government to create an organ donor system, under which every individual will be a possible donor by his death, is sparking a heated debate in the country, amid worries among Muslim and Jewish communities.
I personally feel this is being rushed in without due consideration and discussion, Dr Sajad Ahmad, a Muslim GP from Cardiff, told the BBC News Online on Monday, November 5.To presume that a person's liver is yours after they have died - that's wrong.
The Welsh government has unveiled a draft, titled Human Transplantation Bill, to create the country's first opt-out donor system.
Under the bill, everyone is deemed to be a willing organ donor when he dies, unless the person has stated otherwise.
Government officials argue that passing the bill will not change key aspects of clinical procedure in Wales.
Officials say that families of the deceased will still be involved in decisions about organ donation under the "soft opt-out" system.
At present, specialist nurses approach families of potential donors even if they have not signed the donor register, some 60% of whom agree to organs being taken.
The Welsh government believes that by the bill will help increase the figure by 15 extra donors, adding around 45 more organs for transplant throughout Britain every year.
"Under the current system, clinicians take a sympathetic approach with families and strive to help them make decisions in accordance with their faith, even though if the person is on the organ donor register they have the legal right to proceed with transplantation, a government spokesman said.
"There will be the same approach in principle if the new law is passed."
But the plans have sparked concerns among Welsh Muslims and Jews.
We believe that people should be able, or the family of the deceased should be able, to agree to organs being taken as a gift as a donation, Stanley Soffa, chairman of the South Wales Jewish Representative Council, said.
I would have preferred there not have been a bill.
Muslim leaders have urged the government to engage in dialogue with medical experts and religious leaders before passing the bill.
"That information should then be given to key figures in the Muslim community because they are like role models," Dr Abdalla Yassin Mohamed, director of Cardiff's Islamic Social Services Association and a member of the Muslim Council of Wales, told the BBC.
Mohamed says that opposition to the bill is based on concerns about the definition of brain death in Islam and the issue of consent, adding he had no objection to presumed consent.
"When those role models are convinced then people will have no problem," he said.
Organ donation is permitted in Islam if it is done within the permissible limits prescribed by the Islamic Shari`ah.
The bill has been discussed at the Welsh government's faith forum, chaired by the first minister, and a specialist firm has been contracted in an attempt to reach out to minority groups.
National Health Service has already distributed leaflets endorsing organ donation for specific faiths, including one which the government says sets out the "key facts regarding Islam and organ donation".
"We are fully committed, as part of the legislation, to ensure we communicate the changes to everyone in Wales, the government spokesman said.
"We are now reviewing the draft bill and the way we explain the role of the family in light of the consultation responses.
"We will continue to work with the faith communities in Wales and officials have met with Muslim and Jewish groups."Britain is home to a Muslim minority of nearly 2.3 million.