read today that Wales is set to introduce a presumed consent plan for organ donation, with the proviso that family members are to be consulted." />

Wales to Introduce a Presumed Consent Plan For Organ Donation

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Organ donation is such an important topic in the medical forum from both an ethical and a legal perspective. BBC News reported on 4th October that a University of Ulster team ‘analysed data from NHS Blood & Transplant for all four UK countries between 1990 and 2009, and compared data on registration and donation from other European countries.’

Further they reported ‘that Wales "consistently outperformed" its UK neighbours, both in terms of the percentage of people registered and its organ donation rate, which had been higher than the UK average for most of the past 20 years.’

This potential move is not without opposition. The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, has stated that organs should not be donated as ‘an asset of the state’ and should be a gift.

It is interesting to note that since introducing a soft version of presumed consent, Spain has seen organ donation rates double. However, Sweden, which also operates a presumed consent system, has no greater rates of organ donation than Germany which has a system similar to the UK.

The waiting lists for organ donation are incredibly long and often the system is viewed as being a lottery. The question of whether the state should interfere in such decision has been longstanding. Arguably, one can see the point of increasing the organs available for those on the waiting lists. However to enforce strict presumed consent would take away any sense of freewill and removes the autonomy of the donor.

Even though most people are aware of organ donation, they have not taken a proactive step to make their opinion known. Most doctors’ surgeries stock Donor Card forms and certain government forms now contain a donation tick box. There are people who would like to donate their organs but have not made this known and so the presumed consent system would work in their favour. However, there are also people who are vehemently against donation a so would harvesting their organs be inherently wrong?

I agree with the opinion of David Webb, a recently retired renal consultant at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, how argues that to introduce presumed consent would ‘upset the applecart’. He believes that ‘close-knit communities responded well to appeals, but could react badly to compulsion.’ Increasing the prominence of organ donation within society is likely to lead to an increase in organ donation. In contrast, if people feel that this is a decision being forced upon them, they may be more likely to ‘react badly’ and refuse consent.

Vicky Kunzli

Trainee Solicitor - Clinical Negligence Team

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