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Ethics of Organ Donation Symposium

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An event to raise awareness of the ethical issues in organ donation was held recently in Cardiff University Law School

Professor Vivienne Harpwood, Vice Chair for Cwm Taf University Health Board opened the event by welcoming delegates to the Ethics of Organ Donation Symposium. She introduced Dr Chris Hingston, Regional Clinical Lead for organ donation. Chris presented an orgando.jpgoverview of achievements link here and welcomed Mr Mike Stephens, Consultant Transplant Surgeon for NHS Blood and Transplant, to present information on the policy document entitled “Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020” link here. Mike gave a very interesting presentation and discussed DBD and DCD donors and the ethics dilemmas involved, explaining comparative data on waiting times in different areas of the country.

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Mr Stephens said: “This event will raise the profile and awareness of organ donation and help people to understand more about the ethics and processes involved. Everyone needs to make changes if we are going to succeed. We in Wales have an excellent platform to build on”.

Dr Chris Hingston

Mr Stephens

The next guest speaker was Mrs Odette Ward, who offered a family perspective on organ donation. Odette’s presentation was centred on her husband Paul who died unexpectedly following an accident at Mr Stephens the age of 38, and whose organs were donated after his death. Odette described the love and passion her husband had for life, and how it had been his wish that in the event of his death his organs would be offered for donation. She said: “Do you know how it feels to watch someone you love fight for their life?” However, she explained that it was a comfort to her that in consenting to the donation, she knew she was carrying out Paul’s wishes.

The audience felt privileged to have heard Odette’s story and a member of the audience said: “Odette you are truly inspirational”.

“It brought me to tears to see the strength of Odette”, was a comment from a member of the audience at the event.

After the event Odette said: "I hope the talk that I gave today will make people realise that ‘In giving we receive’ and the decisions we make today have the ability to change the lives of others that is a beautiful gift we can offer".

organdon0.jpgThe Health Minister, Professor Mark Drakeford, was then introduced to the event, and he expressed his interest and enthusiasm for the proceedings, commenting: “I am delighted to be at an event as important as this. Here in Wales we have taken a practical approach to organ donation by introducing a system of deemed consent. You can opt in to organ donation, or opt out; or you can choose to do nothing in the knowledge you have allowed consent to be deemed. People need to understand the framework of rules in which they are operating, and with a high profile campaign, and by targeting specific communities such as newly arrived students and minority groups, we hope to achieve this”.

The Minister gave a lecture on the ethical aspects of the system of deemed consent which is about to be implemented in Wales under the provisions of the Human Transplant (Wales) Act 2013.

The next presentation was given by Professor Steven Edwards, covering the problems involved in defining death in the context of organ transplantation. He was followed by Amanda Gibbon who discussed the issues of DCD and DBD donors. Amanda explained the differences in the annual percentages of DBD and DCD organ donation, saying: “It will be fascinating to see how the campaign in Wales takes off”.

organdon1.jpgorgandon2.jpgA very interesting debate led by Professor Ilora Finlay was next on the agenda, with Dr Tamas Szakmany and and Dr Melvyn Jenkins-Welch, consultant intensivists, discussing the ethical considerations involved in the escalation of treatment in DCD donors. Many questions were asked from the floor, and the differing opinions expressed made this a very interesting talk. Dr Chris Hingston then took the podium, in a session led by Dr Beth Gibson, Clinical Lead for Organ Donation (CLOD) for Cwm Taf. Chris presented information on the ethical dilemmas for a CLOD who refers a patient for organ donation. This presentation led to further interesting questions and comments from the audience.

organdon3.jpgThe last clinician to present was Dr Liz Stevenson, Consultant in Emergency Medicine. Liz showed a short silent movie which, although humorous in nature, demonstrated the ethical dilemmas faced by busy clinicians working under pressure in Emergency Medicine on a day to day basis.

The last guest speaker was Mark Irwin, who gave his presentation on his experiences as a recipient of an organ. He told a heartfelt story about his life before and after he received his ‘new heart’ and the changes it made to his life. He described the ups and downs of life and his difficult experiences over the years, sympathetically explaining what he and his family went through, and expressing his gratitude to the donor who gave him a new lease of life and the ability to see his family grow up.

Closing remarks were then made by Mr Kamal Asaad, Medical Director of Cwm Taf University Health Board, who thanked everyone for an excellent and informative day, paying a special tribute to Odette Ward and Mark Irwin for sharing their traumatic and very personal stories.

For further information regarding this press release please contact Sharon Draper, Communications Officer on 01443 744927 or sharon.draper@wales.nhs.uk
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