It’s now two years since the Welsh Government passed the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act. At the time, the Welsh Health Minister was informing us of the many lives that would saved by this ‘progressive’ legislation. The First Minster was telling the world that the new Act was Welsh law-making at its best. I was the only Wales based voice on the Welsh airwaves telling listeners and viewers of my opposition to this legislation - because it would not increase the number of organs available for donation, and could have the opposite effect. There were other prominent individuals opposed to the new legislation on ethical grounds, which was an entirely different argument.
Eventually I gave up ‘appearing’ on media programmes because of the invariable tone of the interviewing - usually beginning with a very ill patient in need of a new life saving organ, followed by me being asked why I wanted to prevent it. No matter how often or how patiently I pointed out that I wanted to do no such thing and on the contrary, that what I wanted was for there to be more donated organs. The next question (completely ignoring what I’d just said) was how could I put ‘faith’ or ‘ethics’ before saving lives. When I pointed out that reference to faith and ethics was the interviewer, and had no part of my thinking, I might as well have been speaking to a brick wall. I just tried to keep on repeating that ‘presumed consent’ would not increase the availability of organs for donation and could well reduce them. No-one so deaf as those who will not hear! No-one listened.
There are ways we can increase organ donation - increase number of Specialist Nurses (SNODS), increase number of Intensive Care Beds, and invest in “Tell Your Family Your Wishes” campaigns. But it was so much easier to look as if something is being done by passing a new law, when there was no evidence that it would work.
Today we’re told that the level of organ donation has not increased over the two years that the new law has been operating. I know it’s too soon to make definitive judgements. And the publicity generated by the Welsh Government may well have raised awareness, which is positive. And may have a longer term impact. It’s just that I don’t think so.
The most worrying aspect of this new law, is impact on the number of ‘live’ donors, which has fallen significantly over the last three years. Another argument I put forward at the time the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act was being discussed was that if organ donation, through legislation becomes a responsibility of the state, rather than a gift by donors based on love and generosity, it would become a matter for the state in the people’s mind. Well, maybe it has already done so. The fall in ‘live’ donors is an utter tragedy, and has led to less lives being saved. I don’t suppose I’ll be invited to do many interviews now!