Nationwide discussion to explore whether Wales should be the first UK country to introduce an ‘opt-out’ organ donation system
The dates for a series of debates to gather public opinion on whether Wales should become the first UK country to introduce a system of presumed consent have been announced today.
Welsh Assembly Government Health Minister Edwina Hart said the purpose of the debates was to gauge views on whether the Assembly Government should seek a legislative change in order to increase the number of organ donors.
A discussion document will also be issued and published on-line by the Assembly Government this Friday to invite wider comment from the public. Respondents will be able to use a website to electronically indicate their preference of different systems of organ donation consent.
Telephone interviews with a representative sample of the population will also be carried out.
The Community Health Councils in Wales are inviting members of the public to attend the debates. Those interested in attending are being asked to register rather than just turn up to ensure a broad representative sample of the population attends each debate.
The dates, times and locations for the public debates are:
o Cardiff – Monday 27 October, Taff Conference Centre, Sophia Gardens, Welsh Institute of Sport, from 6:15 pm – 9:00 pm;
o Brecon – Tuesday 28 October, Bishop Meadow Hotel, Brecon, from 12:00pm – 3:00 pm;
o Haverfordwest – Wednesday 29 October, Nant-y-Ffin Hotel, Llandissilio, from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm;
o Caernarfon – Friday 31 October, Siambr Dafydd Orwig, Gwynedd Council, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm;
o Aberystwyth – Monday 3 November, Parc Lodge Hotel, Parc y Llun, from 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm;
o Wrexham – Tuesday 4 November, Nick Whitehead Theatre, Main Foyer, Glyndwr University, from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm;
o Newtown – Thursday 6 November, Ladywell House, Newtown, from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm; and,
o Anglesey – Thursday 13 November, Main Chamber at YMCC offices, Llangefni, from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.
Because of a shortage of donors, 150 people have died in Wales in the last five years waiting for a transplant.
Edwina Hart said:
“Around 500 people in Wales are currently waiting for an organ transplant, but with a desperate shortage of donors many face the reality of having to wait years and the possibility they may even die while waiting.
“Although the Assembly Government is already funding campaigns to increase the number of donors, a shortage of organs still remains so it is my belief that we should examine more closely the issue of introducing a system presumed consent.
“Last month, I rejected the recommendation from the National Assembly’s Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee that Wales should not pursue a legislative change at this time, because I did not believe that the Committee’s report adequately reflected the evidence it received in relation to presumed consent.
“However, I recognise that any changes to legislation would require further wide-ranging consultation and testing of public opinion as this is a sensitive and emotive issue.
“That’s why I’m announcing this series of debates and publishing a discussion paper for those that are unable to attend but would still wish to comment.
“Once there is clear understanding of public opinion in Wales on the issue of presumed consent, the Assembly Government will consider the need for a legislative change.”
The debates and discussion paper will examine the public’s view of a range of systems such as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ presumed consent and mandated choice.
The public will also be asked whether certain organs should be excluded from any new system.
To register interest in attending the debates, people should contact Gwenllian Stifin at the Board of Community Health Councils on 0845 644 7814 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The discussion paper can be obtained from Friday at www.wales.gov.uk/health which includes a link to a site where people can indicate their preferred system for organ donation.
1. Unlike the current ‘opt-in’ system, presumed consent is an ‘opt-out’ system where it is presumed that your organs are available for transplant to those in need of them unless you have formally registered the view that you do not wish to have them removed after death.
A distinction is often drawn between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ versions of an opt-out system. In the ‘soft’ version relatives are allowed to veto the removal of the organs of their relative, and in the ‘hard’ version, this veto is not present. The soft version can be found in Belgium and Spain, and the hard version in Austria. Another version of a hard opt out system is one that does not cover some groups. With this system doctors can remove organs from every adult who dies – unless a person has registered to opt out or the person belongs to a group that is defined in law as being against an opt-out system, an example of this is Singapore where Muslims chose to opt out as a group.
In a system of mandated choice, all adults would be required by law to state whether or not they are prepared to donate their organs after death. This could be done when registering with a GP, completing a tax return, or at some other formal occasion.
2. The full response by the Welsh Assembly Government’s to the Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee Inquiry can be found at www.wales.gov.uk/publications/
3. The Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee’s inquiry was published last July and can be accessed at: http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-committees/bus-committees-third1/bus-committees-third-hwlg-home/bus-committees-third-hwlg-report.htm