Thursday, 13 December 2012

Organ Donation (Wales)

A BBC report last week ( detailed the plans by the Welsh Assembly to bring in an opt-out scheme for organ donation instead of the current opt-in scheme. This means that if you die and you have not stated whether you would or would not like your organs to be donated then you will be taken to be a willing organ donor.

"If passed by the Welsh Assembly it could come into force by 2015" (as above). This move would mean that in the situation where your wishes have not been stated your family would not be able to decide against you having your organs donated as it was never changed in your lifetime.

"The main reason families stopped organs being taken was because they did not know what their relatives' wishes were." Therefore it has been encouraged that these conversations are had at home to discuss the idea of 'presumed consent' and come to a decision on whether to opt-out of the organ donation process.

However, although the general thought is that it will increase the numbers of organ donors in Wales; "there are lower rates of organ donation in some countries that have already implemented presumed consent so it's important that this scheme is not seen as the only way to increase donation rates." This enforces the argument that this issue needs to be openly talked about and publicity increased in Wales but also across the whole of the United Kingdom.

A BMJ article ( published in 2010 says that "in practice, even when people have expressed their willingness to donate by either carrying a donor card or, since 1994, signing up to the computerised NHS Organ Donor Register, their relatives are always asked for consent and relatives’ refusal overrides the deceased would-be donor’s decision." This is clearly wrong as it goes against the wishes of the deceased person and it is the hope that this new law, as well as brining in a presumed consent scheme, will act to stop the overriding that occurs by the relatives of the deceased.

The BMJ article also says that "in 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked an Organ Donor Taskforce to consider the potential effect of an opt-out system for organ donation in the UK." The Taskforce then did research and collected data on "the effect of presumed consent on organ donation rates" but contrary to the data that they collected they "recommended no change to current policy but renewed effort to increase the number of donors opting in."

In their report ( they set out 14 recommendations that "taken together, would create a structured and systematic approach to organ donation in the UK" but they also state that "the wishes of the potential donor or their family are ascertained and respected." But as I mentioned earlier this is where the issues are coming in, the overriding by the family of the potential donor.

What really needs to be focussed on are checkpoints 4.47-4.50 of the report under the heading ('public recognition and promotion of donation'). These underline the issues of publicity of organ donation, the lack of donation amongst certain communities, the risks that some communities face and the necessity of people from that same community donating organs.

However the most shocking statistic (as of 2008 when this report was created) is that "it is still the case that nationally, the relatives of 40% of potential donors refuse consent for donation." Therefore this Bill tabled by the Welsh Assembly is trying to dramatically decrease this percentage and make sure that people think about the huge benefits to other people's lives (sometimes saving lives) by giving their organs after death.


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