Wednesday 30 July 2008

Welsh assembly reluctance over organ donation consent

Members of the Welsh assembly have rejected calls for people's consent to organ donation to be presumed. Instead, the assembly's health committee wants potential donors to be encouraged to register their intentions. The British Medical Association is disappointed. Regrettably, the committee has not completely ruled out so-called presumed consent but one should be grateful for small mercies.

As I blogged in January, there is a risk that eager medics could hasten patients' deaths to get fresh organs for a person in need - well-intentioned but wrong. Earlier this year, a patient in Paris, presumed dead, revived as surgeons began to remove his organs. The International Forum on Transplant Ethics proposed that certain patients to be given lethal injections so that their organs are in better shape for transplant.

Presuming consent isn't the same as obtaining it, so it's not really consent at all, and such an presumption effectively nationalises everyone's bodies. Some countries which presume consent actually get fewer organs that are obtained in this country where consent is still needed. Mr Jonathan Morgan AM, health committee chairman, rightly points out that it's difficult asking grieving relatives to make decisions about a patient's body-parts. While organ donation can be a generous act, none of us is morally required to do it and government has no right to require it of us.

Also in January, I blogged on the dangers of defining tube-feeding as medical treatment and its implications for organ donation. We're keeping an eye on this issue of organ donation and our Patients First Network continues to watch out for the interests of people in hospital.