Organ donation: Church in Wales debate on presumed consent

Dr Barry Morgan addressed the meeting The Archbishop of Wales addresses the meeting inside the Cardiff city centre church

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The Church in Wales has staged a public debate to discuss plans to introduce presumed consent rules on organ donation.

Under the Welsh government proposal, everyone in Wales would automatically become a donor unless they opted out.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has already called for the legislation to be scrapped.

The debate was held at John the Baptist Church in central Cardiff. Official consultation will end on 31 January.

The Reverend Carol Wardman, of the Church in Wales, said: "Most people would be only too happy for their organs to be used for the benefit of someone else after their death.

"But sadly, only about 30% of us join the organ donor register. This is why the Welsh government wants to bring forward legislation to allow organs to be used for transplant unless the deceased has registered an objection.

Start Quote

The Church in Wales is inviting people to think about the moral and ethical questions too”

End Quote The Rev Carol Wardman

"The government's current consultation process focuses on the practicalities of the proposed system. The Church in Wales is inviting people to think about the moral and ethical questions too."

Around 80 people attended the question and answer session.

The discussion, which aimed to explore the issues from a Christian standpoint, was arranged by the Church in Wales.

BBC Wales' Sara Gibson reported that the meeting heard why Dr Morgan and fellow bishops in Wales disagree with the opt-out model, and instead want the system to remain as it is.

Many in the meeting also did not agree with the notion of "presumed consent" and agreed with Dr Morgan that an organ should be a gift.

However, Martyn Hutchings, from Thornhill, Cardiff, told the meeting that he had been waiting four years for a transplant, and he hoped that the change in legislation would assist people like himself.

In September, Dr Morgan questioned whether it was a legitimate use of power by the Welsh government.

He told the church's governing body: "Organ donation surely ought to be a matter of gift and not of duty.

'Faith' questions

"Giving organs is the most generous act of self giving imaginable but it has to be a choice that is freely embraced, not something that the state assumes."

His views were criticised by the chairman of Kidney Wales Foundation, Roy J Thomas, who agreed to take part in the public debate, as part of the Opt for Life campaign backing the changes.

Mr Thomas said: "This is a progressive change in the law. A great deal of scaremongering unfortunately materialises as with anything new.

"We have received great support in the lead up and now want to see those who support this change have their voices heard."

The latest figures show Wales has reached a deceased organ donation rate of 27.7 per million people (pmp), compared to the UK average rate of 16.3 pmp.

It places Wales above many other European countries, including France (23.8 pmp), Italy (21.6 pmp) and Belgium (20.5 pmp), which already has a system of presumed consent, according to figures for 2010.

The proposed change to the law has been backed by organisations such as the British Medical Association, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, British Lung Foundation, the Welsh Kidney Patients Association.

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