Dogs, ducks and ethics

 

Politicians have long, long memories. At least we now know that Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, Alun Cairns doesn't forget a good line when he hears one.

The same, incidentally, goes for my colleague Tomos Livingstone, who spotted the nifty bit of recycling in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Thirteen years ago, Mr Cairns - then an AM - was compared to "a Victorian undertaker praying for a hard winter." It was Rhodri Morgan's line, a man known for his innovative use of the one liner.

Mr Cairns heard, noted, squirmed and squirreled it away - until today. During Prime Minister's Questions out it came, directed this time at Ed Miliband. I doubt he'd get away with a recycled one-legged duck but let's live in hope that he tries one day.

There were few laughs but plenty of nitty-gritty language in today's session of the Health and Social Care Committee. These are the people who must scrutinise the government's proposed Organ Donation Bill and let's face it, they can't afford to make many mistakes on that one. Victorian undertakers aside, this really is life and death stuff.

Into the Assembly committee room seeped real life, the sort of real life that makes scrutinising complex, controversial bills pretty tough. We heard about the reality of working in hospital wards where real doctors have regularly to juggle a real shortage of beds.

There were nitty-gritty, uncomfortable facts to go with the nitty-gritty language. For one there was a warning from critical care specialist Dr Peter Matthews that - to put it bluntly - there was a danger much needed beds in intensive care units would end up being used for the purposes of harvesting organs. He needed those beds for patients alive and fighting for life, not for patients who - as one committee member put it to me - are 'essentially dead' and are waiting for the system to allow their organs to be removed.

What of the Health Minister's evidence last week that the objection of any family member would be taken into account. Any family member? How high or how low up and down the family food chain does she intend doctors to go before an organ can be removed? Does she really mean 'any' family member? Her evidence has certainly left some in Cardiff Bay feeling "pretty jittery" a reliable source tells me.

There was a warning too that when it comes to organ donation, the key is our understanding of what is about to change, of what 'presumed consent' means.

Yes, the detail must be got right, unintended consequences must be spotted and guarded against, the difference between 'solid organs' and other forms of donation must be considered, but a simple, clear framework must be maintained.

It is key that we understand, key that we get the concept. For some, of course, the concept of presumed consent is all wrong. There were stories of two potential donors who'd turned against the idea precisely because what they had seen as an altruistic act - giving the chance of life to someone else when their own chance of life had gone - had become a demand from the state.

There was the counter argument from Sir Peter Simpson, chair of the UK Donor Ethics Committee , that 'deemed consent' doesn't mean you have no choice. You do have a choice. Deemed consent means you have the choice - to say no.

Discuss.

I'll end not with the nitty-gritty but with more laughs and with another duck.

Things got a bit raucous in the chamber as the day drew to a close. The Deputy Presiding Officer had had enough. "This may not be a library" he told members, "but neither is it The Dog and Duck."

The regulars rather enjoyed that one.

 
Betsan Powys, Political editor, Wales Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 57.

    John, your logic seems good but the legal position is complex i.e. in any case where you might need a lawyer, the outcome would depend on the exact facts of a case and , possibly, which judge. Remember that rights do not equate to ownership: e.g. surviving spouses used to have rights to stay in the family home for life, but did not own - and could not sell - the property.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 56.

    55.dispozest

    Could to see realise that England NHS is no better

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    The way things are going - downhill at a rate of knots - is anybody likely to be daft enough to stick around long enough to die in Wales?

    I certainly don't intend to die in what's left of Wales...

    I don't think I even want to die in what's left of the UK!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 54.

    Why not include it as question on the electoral roll registration as they do now for inclusion in the full roll list they sell to advertisers or not if you do not want junk mail, that way you make a choice yes or no, very little extra cost to WG as the data is input by LA's to central database., circumstances may change in future this will allow you to change if you wish. I support organ donation

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 53.

    If what you write at #52 was correct Boxer, a "living will" would not be enforceable, yet it is, therefore logic dictates ownership of a corpse remains with the deceased until such time as the wishes of the deceased have been complied with.

    Of course doctors might cheat .....

    .... without cheating, you must be wrong.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    #51 'gives the state the default right to treat our bodies as mere medical assets '
    The problem with your position is that once you are dead it is no longer 'my body' or 'our bodies'. 'You' are no longer a legal entity. Your relatives certainly don't own the body. Your executors don't own it, but may have a right to dispose of it, but by the time probate is given, the worms will have possession.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 51.

    Are we not crossing some fundamental ethical line where we allow politicians to legislate powers which gives the state the default right to treat our bodies as mere medical assets? Organ donations should always be voluntary. There are much better ways to encourage organ donation. How about a cash sum of £500 which donees can pre choose to go to a dependant relative in the event of death?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 50.

    #49 'Why do they need to keep the stiffs in beds?'
    Because they need to wait until the donor is certified clinically dead. otherwise the organ-retrieval is murder. However, the transplant need 'a healthy corpse', with the organs in good condition. So, rather than transferring the dying patient to a normal bed in a sideward, the 'donor' remains in intensive care until death and consent occur.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 49.

    This rowdiness towards the end, have they a mini-bar by any chance? Why do they need to keep the stiffs in beds? What's wrong with the hospital morgue? I see London's Lewisham General has been mentioned (!), it is a well run and solvent hospital wel loved by the community, but up the road are a couple of bankrupt PFI hospitals. Hunt's solution? Steal Lewishams patients!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 48.

    #45 'Lewisham Hospital: Hunt announces A&E downgrade'
    I expect being a Labour stronghold helps the Govt to decide. However, what it suggests is that Area Health Authorities should come back, since obviously the Govt is trying to centrally manage a NHS (E) crisis across several Local HBs and DGHs. London needs fewer bigger and better hospitals. I suspect, so does North Wales.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 47.

    Dumbskunk - Are you partaking in your namesake?!! Cant make head nor tale of what you are on about buddy.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 46.

    it's not what they do to wales its what you are doing you want your fancy dragon castles their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched this does not seem to be compatible with good practice in healthcare.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 45.

    Lewisham Hospital: Hunt announces A&E downgrade. So they make cuts in England?
    I'm I being synical but isn't it a Labour constituency,

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 44.

    you hate and complain all your lives and you want their organs with it all greed and corruption

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    Dumbskunk: does what it says on the tin !

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 42.

    40.Decentjohn

    I agree entirely. My FIRST language needs to be defended.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 41.

    profits you nothing

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 40.

    31 Woodsey
    The real Welsh amongst us are sick of people coming into Wales learning a word or two of our language and then having the cheek to tell us what to think. I am sure that we can agree on that.

    The topic is organ donation in Wales perhaps you would address that subject

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 39.

    donating organs has no value it doesn't even count as a good deed it means nothing even with consent since, as it's not even a meagre sacrifice just like praying for the dead it's already too late for them.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 38.

    Betsan you report - "Deemed consent means you have the choice - to say no".

    Thats true - but does anyone with a brain really trust the WG to compile and keep up to date any sort of register.

    Opt in also means that you have a choice - to say yes

 

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