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Presumed Consent

Wales has taken action to address the shortage of organs that are available to patients needing transplants by voting to shift to a system that assumes people are organ donors unless they, or their families, specify otherwise.

The move addresses a healthcare conundrum: most people want to be donors but they aren't registered. Although two-thirds of people surveyed in Wales said that they would be willing to donate their heart, lungs, liver, and other tissues, only about half of those people had registered as organ donors

Measures such as this 'presumed consent' rule, which the Welsh assembly passed last week, also could offer benefits to certain communities, which are facing "a critical shortage of some tissues, Nature says, such as the brains of children, needed for autism and schizophrenia studies.

But Nature also says that the presumed consent model "seems a step too far at present" for scientific research purposes alone, and that advocates and patient groups are already developing ways to talk with parents of such children about the benefits of being donors and of research.

Nature also notes that while organ donation is a last option for many people who are facing death, new regenerative medicine technologies may in the future make donor lists less necessary.