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Wales donors show signs of reacting against deemed consent bill

12 April 2013

12 April 2013: Potential organ donors in Wales are showing signs of reacting against the Welsh government's deemed consent bill, said Welsh pro-life campaigners.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in Wales was commenting about a catastrophic collapse in numbers of organ donors in the past year, at the same time that the deemed consent bill is being promoted.

Janet Secluna Thomas, SPUC Wales's development officer, said: "The government push for organ seizure seems to be affecting the voluntary organ donation system. Figures show that only 52 donors volunteered for organ donation from April 2012 to March 2013. This is a fall from 67 in 2011-12. Thus Wales’ performance fell from the best in the UK to the worst in the UK in one year. All other nations of the UK showed a major increase in the donor rate.

"The politicians in the Welsh Assembly deny any responsibility. However, oral evidence to the Health Committee1 showed that donors were reacting against the proposed bill to enforce organ seizure and to ignore the right of patients to require their express consent. The bill appears to have had a very damaging effect."
 
Mrs Thomas continued: "No real consultation has taken place. The government has ignored mounting opposition, which showed about 96% against in September 2012 including standard letters, and 90% against in January 2013. Many distinguished medical experts and bioethicists are against the bill. All the churches and Islamic authorities are against it also. In September, over 2,000 letters from individuals against the bill were sent to the health minister. Since then Assembly members have received over 12,000 letters against the bill.
 
"The Labour Party made a political decision in 2009 to adopt presumed consent and has ignored the outstanding previous success of the voluntary organ donation system. Now the potential donors on the organ donor register are starting to withdraw their permission", said Mrs Thomas.

Mrs Thomas continued: "Lesley Griffiths, the minister said with reference to human rights: 'Consent could not be valid if people did not understand the system; it would be in breach of human rights.' But the minister has failed to convince a wide swathe of opinion that her proposed system can ever achieve the informed consent she admits is necessary. She has even admitted2 that without other measures (such as greatly increased numbers of intensive care beds, there may be no increase in organ donors. Wales has the lowest level of such beds in Europe."

"Professor Fabre, an expert on presumed consent in Spain, said that the minister's claim that Spain's success regarding organ donation was achieved with the help of presumed consent. In fact, the opposite is true. This is the lesson the Welsh government has persistently ignored.

"One option being proposed is a system of 'mandated choice', where all those who have not registered a choice on organ donation are prompted and informed to register their choice. This would remove the obstacle that families do not know what their loved ones want when they are asked if they will consent to organ removal. It is hoped that Mark Drakeford, the new health minister, will take a step back from the rush to introduce legislation and consider this and any other promising options for voluntary donation," said Mrs Thomas.

Mrs Thomas added: "Many people argue strongly that a great deal more could be done to improve voluntary donation. Muslims have set an excellent example by starting an initiative to tackle the lack of organs from ethnic minorities, by sending out young recipients of organs to speak of the difference it has made to their lives."

SPUC's communications department can be contacted on:

1. 30/01/13 Section 63
2. Oral evidence, 30 Jan. section 100

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