National Assembly Committee agrees general principles of Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill

Published 25/03/2013   |   Last Updated 14/07/2014

National Assembly Committee agrees general principles of Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill

25 March 2013

The National Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee has agreed the general principles of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill.

The Bill proposes to change the current organ donation system from one in which individuals opt in to have their organs donated after death, to one of deemed consent. ‘Deemed consent’ would require an individual to expressly opt out if they did not want to donate. However there would still be a role for the family to provide information on the wishes of their loved one.

In agreeing the general principles, the Committee stressed that the Bill alone is unlikely to be enough to increase the organ donation rate in Wales but would be one element in a series of initiatives, including education and raising public awareness of the issue. The Welsh Government would also be responsible for implementing these measures.

It also raised concerns about other aspects of the Bill including the question of consent to donation, and the necessary levels of public awareness and understanding for deemed consent to be workable.

The Committee called for further clarification over the role of family and friends have regarding deemed consent donation. The Committee stressed the need for the Health and Social Services Minister to provide clarity and consistency on the question of whether the family would be able to provide information about the wishes of their loved one or whether they would have a veto over donation taking place.

The Committee believes further detail and clarity is required from the Minister to give greater public confidence in a system of deemed consent and to provide certainty for medical staff.

Further concerns were also raised about the financial implications of the Bill, its potential impact on critical care capacity in Wales and the budget set aside for a public awareness campaign.

Committee Members have asked the Welsh Government to look again at the communication and education campaign. There are continuing concerns over whether the current proposal is sufficient to ensure that the public are fully informed about how the Bill will affect them, what their options are and how they can act on those options.

The Committee’s decision to back the general principles of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill was not unanimous with two Members voting against.

“Examining the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill has been a difficult and challenging process,” said Vaughan Gething AM, Temporary Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee.

“But we have agreed, by a clear majority, that it should proceed to the next stage of the legislative process.

“Organisations and individuals on all sides of this delicate and at times emotive debate have made compelling points both for and against the Bill.

“But the principle objective of the Bill – the need to increase the number of organ transplantations in Wales and to save more lives - cannot be ignored, and it is the one point on which everyone is agreed.

“The Committee has significant concerns over how the issues of consent have been set out and explained. In particular we have remaining concerns over the role and involvement of family and friends.

"We urge the Welsh Government to set out its position in a clear and consistent manner from this point forward. Without that clarity and consistency there is a real risk that there will not be public confidence in a deemed consent system. Clarity is equally important for the medical staff who will be handling these difficult situations.

“We also call on the Welsh Government to look again at its proposals for a Wales-wide publicity programme to inform the public about how the Bill will affect them. We remain to be convinced that the one detailed to us is sufficient to meet the Government's own aspirations. This is crucial given the Governments own view about the extent of public knowledge required for deemed consent to work in practice.”

The Bill will now be debated by the full Assembly before proceeding to Stage Two of the legislative process where it will be considered in further detail and Assembly Members will be able to submit proposed amendments for consideration.

Link to more information on the Health and Social Care Committee

Link to more information on the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill

Link to more information about the National Assembly’s legislative process