Today the Welsh Government published it's draft Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill for consultation. The aim of this bill has been said to be to introduce a system of organ donation in Wales based on 'presumed consent' - where anyone who does not sign a register specifically stating that they do not want their organs removed will be deemed to have given consent for this to happen. I have consistently argued that this is a wrong, both ethically and because it will not work. There is no evidence to support the notion that 'presumed consent' will increase availability of organs. Today's headline on BBC Wales today which states "Law will increase organ donation" is untrue and is sloppy journalism on the part of the BBC. It is based on assertions (made by the Minister which the small print makes clear) without any evidence that stands up to examination. But putting this aside, lets look at what is being proposed. I'm always willing to approach things with an open mind.
There is one very important and interesting line in this Written Statement. "Not opting out will be treated as a wish of the deceased to be a donor and a decision which families will be sensitively encouraged to accept." Well, as long as this procedure is written clearly into any future Assembly measure, I could well find myself in the position of thinking the proposals should go further. My view has been that the next of kin of everyone who could be a donor should be 'sensitively encouraged' to agree. All of our efforts should be put into ensuring people's wishes are known by their next of kin. My speech in the House of Commons last year was titled "A Presumptive Approach to Organ Donation." Evidence shows that such a high percentage of people are content for their organs to be used that discussion with next of kin in the inevitably traumatic situations should start from the basis of presuming agreement. My principal position has always been that no organ should be removed without express permission of next of kin. This should be written into any Act
So I'm left wondering what all the fuss has been about. Why on earth do we need an opt out list at all if everyone is to be treated as a potential donor. Best performing country, Spain, does not have a list. Would it not be a better use of resources for the money needed to draw up and maintain an opt out list be spent promoting a campaign based on "Let your next of kin know your wishes". Its increasingly beginning to look as if the exercise has been based on a desire to be different for its own sake.
This post is a very preliminary assessment of what I've read. I need to discuss the issue with lawyers and transplantation experts before making definitive judgements. At this stage I'm rather less alarmed by what's proposed than I feared I would be. Wasting money is one thing. Taking an organ where next of kin had not given approval is another thing entirely.