Friday, December 28, 2012

Agreeing with Archbishop on Organ Donation

I really should try to fix up a coffee with Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales. Despite coming from very different backgrounds and probably from a different location on the political spectrum, I find myself agreeing with him on some fundamental issues. I was not in support of establishing the National Assembly for Wales, while he was - but today we both want it to develop into a stronger 'parliament' now that its been created. I am not in favour of redefining the meaning of marriage, while the Archbishop is - but we both think the Church in Wales should be free to decide, along with other non-established churches. And today he's been discussing with David Williamson of the Western Mail another issue we agree on - disagreement with the Welsh Gov'ts plans to change the organ donation system to one based on presumed consent 'opting out' rather than one based on assumed consent, 'opting in'.

Reason I need to talk this through with the Archbishop is because we arrive at our similar conclusions from very different considerations. And I need to emphasise that both of us are hugely enthusiastic about promoting organ donation. There is a waiting list of individuals suffering organ failure, and there are steps we can take which will make a difference, (rather than just giving the appearance of doing something).  He is deeply concerned that the proposals will change the nature of the relationship between the individual and the state. He's absolutely right about this of course, but my principal concern is that it just will not increase the number of organs available for donation, will waste public money on the wrong solution when it could be so much better used, and may well make the position worse. There is not a shred of evidence that 'opting out' will result in a single extra donated organ. The contrary has and continues to be asserted as fact, without any supporting evidence, and has traction with listeners because there is an instinctive assumption that "it must be true".  Its not.

Another relevant opinion that I share with the Archbishop is that the Welsh Government should be free to introduce 'misguided' laws if it so decides. And it may be that it has the freedom to continue with its determination to introduce 'presumed consent'. But perhaps not. There is a responsibility on those of us who think the change may do harm to the organ donation system to say so. I believe there is real concern within the Dep't of Health that the terrific progress that has been made across the UK since the Organ Donation Taskforce Report was published 3/4yrs ago will be stopped in its tracks. There is also real concern that BME communities will become even less willing to donate - which is a particular problem because its members are physiologically more predisposed to organ failure. Both the Archbishop and I are both very supportive of increasing the number of organs available for donation. Its one of my particular interests as a politician. The Welsh Gov't seems to both of us as 'misguided' and likely to achieve the reverse of what is intended. Its a terrible shame.

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