Welsh organ donation law reform must be based on evidence

The Archbishop of Wales has criticised the Welsh Government’s proposals for a system of presumed consent for organ donation, claiming the policy would ‘compromise individual rights and freedoms’ and questioned whether the state can make such decisions. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has responded by restating its support for a system of presumed consent, and calling for the legislation to be informed by ‘evidence and objective information’.

At present, across the UK there is an ‘opt-in’ system where individuals have to register themselves on the organ donor register if they wish to donate their organs for transplantationafter they have died. The Welsh Government is due to publish a White Paper outlining its proposals to introduce an opt-out system, whereby adults in Wales are presumed to consent to donating their organs on their death, unless they have actively opted-out should they not wish their organs to be used for donation.

Responding to the Archbishop’s comments, BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips said: ‘Organ donation is a complex issue, and it is essential that in creating a system endeavouring to benefit society and save lives, the rights of the individual are respected.’

‘While discussion and debate over the practical implementation of a system are necessary, we believe it is important to emphasise that there are no specific religious-based objections to an ‘opt-out’ system. The opinions of the Archbishop should not be accorded greater importance on the basis of his title; a wide range of voices need to be heard, but ultimately policy must be based on evidence and rational, objective information.

Ms Phillips continued ’The BHA continues to support a system of presumed soft consent, as advocated by the British Medical Association. Such a system accommodates the wishes of individuals and their family members who do not wish to donate organs, yet would profoundly benefit society as whole by greatly increasing the availability of organs. In turn, many lives would be saved, and the practice of organ trafficking would be greatly reduced.

Notes:

Read the Archbishop’s address 

Read the British Medical Association’s organ donation briefing

Read more about the BHA’s position on organ donation

In 2008, the BHA gave evidence to the Welsh Government Committee Inquiry into Presumed Consent for Organ Donation

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.