Campaign charity the Kidney Wales Foundation has hailed a new organ donation scheme designed to boost vital transplant donors.
Wales is expected to forge ahead with a controversial scheme which assumes consent for organs to be used for transplant.
Welsh Assembly members meet in Cardiff to vote on the new Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill.
The Kidney Wales Foundation (KWF) believes that donor organ availability could be boosted by up to 35 per cent through the proposed law change.
The bill, if backed, would see Wales become the first part of the UK to adopt such a scheme.
The KWF has campaigned for the last five years for the expected change regarding organ donation to be made law.
One person dies every week in Wales waiting for an organ transplant. The figure for the UK as a whole is three people a day.
The charity sees the vote on the bill as the culmination of major efforts to enlarge the pool of life-saving organs available.
Roy Thomas, KWF chief executive, described the bill as “progressive”.
He said: “The UK is one of the lowest donor rate countries in Europe.
“This consent law has had a positive and sizeable effect on organ donation rates of some 25 to 35 per cent higher on average in deemed consent countries.
“When introduced in Belgium only 2 per cent opted out, currently only around a third of the Welsh population is on the organ donor register and this is around the same for the UK as a whole.”
Mr Thomas added: “The Welsh government has seen this bill scrutinised properly and several detailed consultations have been undertaken with the Welsh public.
“Wales has been at the forefront of organ donation with development of the Organ Donor Register in the 1980s to having the DVLA communicate on the issue when sending out driving licences. This law is further progress and evidence shows it will increase donation rates.
“All Welsh residents will be able to register their personal wishes regarding organ donation. As of now, you may register as a donor or opt-in. You may also register as a non-donor or opt-out, this is new.
“But if you do not opt-in, or opt-out, if you do nothing, you will have deemed to consent to organ donation.”
He explained: “Deemed consent donation will not go ahead in the absence of any family member. Kidney Wales believe the presence of the family is essential - both as a source of necessary information about the potential donor and in order to ensure that donation does not go ahead in the face of the deceased’s known objection to organ donation.”
The charity also highlighted the plight of both organ recipients and donor families under the current opt-in scheme.
Melanie Wager, who received a kidney in July 2010, said: “Waiting for an organ is an extremely difficult time for anyone - it is like being on death row and it seems as if you are being further punished for being ill. Mentally, it is cruel for the patient and the caring family.”
Gaynor Taylor. whose 23-year-old son Richard died in 2004, and has been in the position as a donating family, worked on the campaign with the KWF.
“It is a difficult time for the family and the burden will be more with doctors. For this reason plus the distress it causes, I have been working closely with Kidney Wales for the soft opt-out system for organ donation,” she said.
“It allows a clear statement of the law. I believe it will help families during this difficult time. I know because my late husband and I faced this decision. If anyone does not want to donate they can opt-out.”