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Church responds to organ donor law change

Posted on: November 18, 2015 4:07 PM
The Raffour family - six-year-old Ava Raffour was born with biliary atresia, a life-threatening liver condition and had two liver transplants before she was one-year-old.
Photo Credit: Church in Wales
Related Categories: health, Wales

[ACNS] Changes to the law on organ donation in Wales, which come into effect on 1 December, will mean that everyone will be considered a potential organ donor unless they register their decision to opt out. Previously in wales, as is still the case in the rest of the UK, organs for transplant could only be retrieved if a donor – or their next of kin – opted in.

The Church in Wales had opposed the change, saying that presumed consent could lead to the alienation of a significant proportion of the public and undermine the positive image of organ donation and the reputation of Wales. The bishops of the Church in Wales had said that the high rate of voluntary donation speaks of a culture of generosity, while a system of presumed consent would “turn donation into action by default”.

The Welsh Government is now organising a series of roadshows as part of its It’s Time to Choose campaign to make sure citizens of Wales understand the new system; and one of the first events will be held at St John’s Church in the centre of Cardiff on Monday.

“It’s very important that everyone is aware of the changes to the law and decides what they want to happen to their organs in the event of their deaths,” the Revd Canon Dr Sarah Rowland Jones, Priest-in-Charge of St John’s, says. “This event will be a good opportunity to discuss any concerns or fears people may have with the Organ Donation Wales team so that they can make an informed decision,” she said.

Mark Drakeford, a member of the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Government’s Health and Social Services Minister, explained that the It’s Time to Choose campaign “encourages people to have a conversation about organ donation with their family and loved ones and I hope people will visit the roadshow to find out about the new law and the importance of talking about their organ donation decisions with their friends and family.”

The seven bishops of the Church in Wales are urging people to make a positive choice about organ donation. “Whatever your views about the principles of Act, the fact remains that there is a great shortage of organs for transplant,” the bishops said in a joint statement last month. “220 people are currently on the waiting list in Wales – and one donor can save several lives.

“In 2014-15, 73 deceased donors supported 173 life-saving operations; but sadly, 12 people died whilst waiting for a transplant.

“As Bishops we are wholeheartedly in favour of organ donation. It is love in action and a wonderful example of what it can mean to love our neighbours, especially those in need. Such generosity is a response to God’s generosity towards us.”

Six-year-old Ava Raffour was born with biliary atresia, a life-threatening liver condition. In her short life she has undergone over 60 operations – including heart surgery and two liver transplants before her first birthday.

“She’s doing brilliantly and has just started school,” her 26-year-old mum, Laura, said. “My husband Nathan and I are immensely proud of her and are in awe of the courage she has already shown in her young life.
“Unless you’re affected personally or come into contact with someone in need of an organ donation, signing up to the NHS Organ Donor Register is just not a priority. I’d never been against donating, but, like many other people, I had never got round to it.

“My family knew I was in favour, but I just hadn’t done anything formal about it. Until we encountered Ava’s problems we hadn’t had to think about it.

“Ava has been given a second chance at life and I want other people, young and old, to also have a better quality of life. If I can help someone through my death, then I’m all for it.

“Each and every operation has been harrowing for us, but we are so thankful to everyone at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff and at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where the actual transplant procedures took place.

“Ava is now old enough to understand what she has been through and we are going to sit down together shortly for her to write a letter to the family of her organ donor. We are so grateful to them for giving Ava her life and I hope that they, in turn, will take comfort from knowing how well little Ava is doing and what a joy she is to be with.”

This article was corrected on 19 November. The Welsh bishops, while supporting organ donation,  had opposed the law change during the Welsh Government's consultation process.