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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Organ donor public debates test opinion on presumed consent

My Policy and Public Affairs Officers attended one of the many Welsh Assembly Government public debates this week, examining the question of 'presumed consent' for organ donation.

The BMA has long-argued the need for a fundamental shake-up in the way organs are donated. We have some 500 people in Wales waiting for a donation.

What I can't quite get my head around is the fact that if you ask people, the majority will say they support organ donation. In fact, some 90% say they would be willing to donate. Unfortunately, this does not translate into people who actually sign the register - it stands at roughly 30%.

So we have a problem. The BMA believes that we need to adopt a 'soft' system of 'opt-out' or 'presumed consent'. It's a subtle difference but an important one. People would still be able to opt-out if they have a moral or religious objection but it would help those people who for, whatever reasons, do not get round to registering.

Families would also have a final say. Which is why Kidney Wales' recent "Tell a Loved One" campaign, is so important. You can sign up to the organ donor register and carry a card, but if your nearest and dearest don't know your wishes, they'll be less inclined to follow them out if you haven't discussed organ donation with them first. And as next of kin would have the final say, they could go against your wishes, if you haven't bother to tell them.

Unfortunately, there's still a great deal of mistrust from the public and I still despair when I hear people saying that this is an attempt by the 'state' or 'politicians' to 'take my organs'. I really don't think that this is the case. Doctors just want what's best for their patients, and ensuring a supply of organs that will meet current and growing demand must remain our ultimate goal.

Anyone wanting to register to be an organ donor, can do so here

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