The Christian Medical Fellowship has produced the following guidelines to help people respond to the National Assembly for Wales Health and Social Care Committee. Please use the information to write to the committee at HSCCommittee@wales.gov.uk
In an effort to improve organ donation rates, the Welsh Government plans to introduce a system of presumed, or deemed, consent to Wales. If a person fails to make a decision about donating their organs after death, the state will presume that consent has been given.
Responses to the initial public consultation and the subsequent draft Bill reflects significant opposition with both the concept of introducing presumed consent and the wording and operation of the draft Bill itself, including from Catholics and Muslims.
Can consent truly be ‘presumed’?
Presumed consent in effect equals no consent, unless there is an extensive public information programme, which would need to capture the entire adult population including those on the margins of society. Only this would ensure that those who do not opt out of donation have made an explicit choice, rather than doing so by default, by ignorance or by a lack of knowledge or understanding.
This makes the whole concept of ‘presumed’, or ‘deemed’, consent ethically problematic as well as complex, and very costly, to administer.
It is not even the most effective way to increase organ donor numbers.
Can families have a say, or object at all?
Although the Welsh government has said all along that it will introduce ‘soft’ opt-out legislation, allowing the family of the deceased a role in the final decision, the Bill as it stands does not in fact allow for this. While provision is made in the draft memorandum (p20), there is no provision in the Bill itself for providing distressed relatives with a right to object to the removal of organs when no consent was given by the deceased.
The Bristol and Alder Hey controversies were fuelled by the perception that families had no real power in decision-making with respect to what happened to their loved one’s body parts. They also showed how crucially important the body is to bereaved parents and friends, and illustrated the need to respect the human body, even in death, and not cause unnecessary distress to the mourners.
If this Bill becomes legislation, it is essential that the need to respect the views of the surviving family is within the legislation itself. The National Assembly for Wales should amend the Welsh Government's Bill to make this commitment clear.
The Christian Medical Fellowship
 CMF has over 4,000 British doctors and 800 medical students as members. Through the International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA) we are linked with like-minded colleagues in over 90 other countries.154 doctors reside in Wales and there are 63 student members at the two Welsh medical schools.