The charities supporting the Opt for Life Campaign and change in legislation: Kidney Wales, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, British Lung Foundation, Welsh Kidney Patients Association.

Under ‘soft’ opt out there should be no compulsion. Kidney Wales believes that a register in Wales of only those persons who have objected will ensure that those who object can be assured that their views are formally recorded.

Kidney Wales Foundation said today that support for a change on the law on organ donation is wide ranging and confirmed the views of many by saying that all those who fully understand and support organ donation know that it is about ensuring that those in need receive the gift of life. Under ‘soft’ opt out there should be no compulsion. A register in Wales of only those persons who have objected will ensure that those who object can be assured that their views are formally recorded

Organisations supporting the change in the law contend that it is illogical to say that being on a database or a register to opt in is the only way forward as progressive countries have shown that adopting a change in attitude and presuming the gift of life increases organ donation. Those who do not want to give may do so.

Organisations further contend that it is no wonder the UK has the one of the lowest donor rates in Europe.

Leading supporters add in answer to those who are against the progressive change that rights are balanced by obligations and those of us who support a framework of law for social obligation need to promote selflessness and not individualism for its own sake.

There has been a great reluctance to change the existing mode of seeking donation in the UK. The Welsh Government published a progressive White Paper setting out a legislative timetable to implement changes to increase the number of organs and tissues available for transplantation through a soft opt out system.

Currently, people have to opt to join the UK organ donor register if they want to donate their organs and tissues after death.

Under ‘soft’ opt out there should be no compulsion. Kidney Wales believes that a register in Wales of only those persons who have objected ensure that those who object can be assured that their views are formally recorded.

In answer to the Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan and others who are against legislative change Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said ‘All who contribute to the debate on the Welsh Government’s White Paper have a responsibility to give first consideration to the needs of those in hope and need of organ transplant, and the sensitivities of donors. Statements about the alleged ‘state control’ of our bodies in Wales are unhelpful, when Wales clearly is not a political state in itself, but an elected devolved democracy. In our tradition of democracy established by great philosophers such as Richard Price, all rights are balanced by obligations and those of us who support a framework of law for social obligation need no lessons in ethics or morality from proponents of individualism. Let us rather have a proper rational discussion about principles and practicalities.’

Baroness Jenny Randerson said “I was disappointed that some of the most strident comments in opposition to the proposed soft opt-out system came from people who had not fully understood how the system would work. It is possible to see this system , tried, tested and successful, in a number of other countries, where the wishes of the donor and of the donor’s family are taken fully into account. Wales would not be taking a leap in the dark but would be following the success of other countries in saving many more lives than we are currently able to do in Wales.”

Roy J. Thomas Chairman of Kidney Wales Foundation said “This is a progressive change in the law. A great deal of scaremongering unfortunately materialises as with anything new. This is evident from press releases and covert e mails which we have seen and sent. The new system is often misrepresented or often misquoted. Practical issues of the new system are misunderstood and the facts of the proposals need to uppermost if we are going to consult widely. We have received great support in the lead up and now want to see those who support this change have their voices heard.”

Mark Drakeford AM for Cardiff West and Chair of the Health Committee in the Assembly said “It is important that organisations in the third sector have their views on the legislation change. There is a wide agreement that change is needed and the White Paper needs to circulated and opinion gained from across Wales.”
Dr Dai Lloyd newly elected Patron for Kidney Wales and former Assembly Member who has been an advocate of Opt Out for many years said “ Countries such as Belgium and Spain offer a far stronger case to that of Israel and Sweden often quoted by those who are against opt out and often the detail of what goes on there is not provided. Wales should look at countries that have been successful in implementing legislative change on opt out such as Belgium. Indeed, I visited Spain when in the Assembly and I was impressed by the strength of the system and culture favouring organ donation. It is also nonsense to say that the Assembly Health Committee which I sat on with Jenny Randerson ruled out presumed consent. All that Committee determined was it was not the right time. Matters have moved on and this was some years ago. Jenny Randerson and I and others disagreed with this conclusion and we believe it is progressive to save lives and change the law ”.
Roy J Thomas said “Many of us see a slot figure of 500 of patients waiting which Government gives as an average list figure as it has maintained at this rate for some years. It is better to have a kidney prior to dialysis and prior to being put on an indefinite waiting list. There are hundreds more in need.”

The UK’s first soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation will be in place in four years time. The White Paper in Wales sets out how the system would work, with a Bill being introduced into the National Assembly for Wales next year and an opt-out system becoming operational in 2015.

A majority of the public believe in organ donation even if they have not joined the NHS organ donor register. According to a 2008 report by the Organ Donation Taskforce Report, 65 per cent of the UK population say they are prepared to donate an organ after their death and 90 per cent support organ donation.

A consultation by the Welsh Government in 2009 also showed 81 per cent of respondents were in favour of an opt-out system. A You Gov Poll taken in 2009 showed 71% in favour. The matter has been debated and campaigned for for 4 years in Wales by leading organisations.

According to an analysis which compared 22 countries over 10 years, those countries with an opt-out system have roughly 25-30 per cent higher donation rates than countries which have ‘informed consent’ schemes. Belgium introduced soft opt out in 1986 and successfully saw donor rates doubling within three years.

Wales has a history of innovative thinking in increasing organ donation. In the 1980’s, Kidney Wales ensured a computer register was in place when working with Manchester University with Lifeline Wales and after that ensured cards were sent out with driving licenses with the DVLA in Swansea. We pray for those who wait that this will be a further step in the right direction to a new life.

NOTES

Kidney Wales Foundation welcomes the Welsh Government’s proactive measures to save lives and fully support its plans to change the law on organ donation by introducing a system of ‘soft opt-out’ in Wales.

Kidney Wales believes that under system of Opt Out, Welsh residents should be presumed to be organ donors on death unless:

They have joined an Opt Out Register
They cannot be identified
The person’s place of residence cannot be identified
The wishes of the deceased can be proven contrary after relatives have been contacted
Immediate relatives object.

Under ‘soft’ opt out there should be no compulsion. Kidney Wales believes that a register in Wales of only those persons who have objected (Option C, paragraph 56 of the Welsh Government White Paper on Organ and Tissue Donation) will ensure that those who object can be assured that their views are formally recorded.
The charities supporting the Opt for Life Campaign and change in legislation: Kidney Wales, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, British Lung Foundation, Welsh Kidney Patients Association.

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