Drop organ law says Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan

Dr Barry Morgan
Image caption Dr Barry Morgan claimed it would undermine trust in doctors and nurses

The Archbishop of Wales is urging the Welsh Government to ditch plans for presumed consent for organ donation.

Dr Barry Morgan said people's organs should be donated as a gift to others and not as an "asset of the state."

The Welsh Government intends publishing a White Paper outlining a system of "soft" presumed consent.

It said people would be given the option of opting out of donating their organs and their families would still be consulted when a death has occurred.

In an address to the governing body of the Church in Wales, at the start of its two-day meeting in Lampeter, Dr Morgan questioned whether it was a legitimate power for any state.

He also claimed the policy would undermine people's trust in doctors and nurses.

Instead he called for more effort to be made to raise the profile of organ donation and to encourage people to join the organ donor register.

Organ donations from Wales rose by 66% over the past two years and the nation is currently second to Spain for organ donation rates, at 27.7 per million people.

Dr Morgan said: "Organ donation surely ought to be a matter of gift and not of duty.

"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.

"Put more crudely, it can turn volunteers into conscripts.

"I think that compromises individual rights and freedoms and poses the moral question as to whether the state can make such decisions."

Save lives

The Welsh Government intends publishing a White Paper outlining a system of what is called "soft" presumed consent later this year to be followed by further consultation with a view to legislation in 2012.

It said 195 patients' lives were saved or improved by an organ transplant last year.

However 49 people in Wales died whilst on the waiting list and there are still more than 280 people in Wales waiting for a transplant.

The Welsh Government said it appreciated faith communities across Wales may have concerns and it would be discussing the issue with them.

A spokesman said: "There is no question of volunteers being turned into conscripts.

"People will be given the option of opting out of donating their organs if they wish, and their families will still be consulted when a death has occurred.

"However, research shows that the Welsh public overwhelmingly backs our proposals."

Roy J Thomas, chairman of Kidney Wales Foundation, said he was disappointed with the remarks made by Dr Morgan.

"We have received immediate responses from patients across Wales condemning the views of the Archbishop," he said. "We challenge him to a public debate on the issue."

Emma Smith, a transplant recipient from Pontypool said: "I think the Church in Wales should not involve themselves in something as sensitive as this.

"The Archbishop would benefit from meeting patients who are on the transplant list and have been for many years to get a feel of what it is like to have to wait for a donor to give the gift of life."

Kidney Wales Foundation, along with the British Heart Foundation, have now also launched a joint website as part of an Opt For Life campaign around the Welsh Government's proposed legislation.

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