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Mr. Forth: I am sure that that is right. Research has shown that relatives who refused permission at the time, when asked some time later, say that, given their attitude in less stressful circumstances, they probably would have, and rather wish that they had, given permission. That factor must be borne in mind.
I shall not say more, as I do not want to jeopardise the progress of my right hon. and learned Friend's Bill. I wanted to record my enthusiastic support for it. Given the circumstances, the Bill is pitched at exactly the right level, which is no more than I would expect from him. I hope very much to see it make progress today.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) on introducing the Bill. Unusually, I find myself in total agreement with the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). I enthusiastically support the Bill and hope that, even though there may be a general election in the offing and the Bill may not make much more progress, the Government or another private Member's Bill immediately after the election will bring the proposal into law soon. It will save some people's lives.
I speak somewhat emotionally. A good friend of mine waited four years for a heart transplant that never happened, and he died waiting. Many other people in this country die because the rules governing consent are too restrictive and make it difficult for consent to be obtained, so that organs cannot be secured for transplant.
I strongly support this sensible measure. I would like it to go further, but the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe is right to draw it fairly tightly, so that it stands a chance of progress in anticipation of the wider review being undertaken by the Government. I hope that the Government will not follow the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and take the Bill in with the review, but will allow this measure to come into law soon.
I carry my donor card everywhere and try to persuade everyone else to do so. Many people have no objection to carrying a donor card; they just never get around to it because their lives are too busy. It is like filling in a tax form: we would not do it unless we were compelled to do so. Door-to-door canvassing might even persuade more people to sign up to donor cards. Even so, when someone dies, it is a difficult time to get the relatives' consent, and as a result others die or do not get their transplants because consent cannot be achieved.
Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): I support my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and his Bill. The question of the lawful possession of the body is vital, and if anyone doubted that, my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley) made it clear in his timely intervention.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe pointed out, the background to our debate on the Bill is that the number of transplant operations being carried out presents a rather flat profile. Nevertheless, the list of those awaiting the procedure is growing and, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, that is an understated list. At the same time, a number of high-profile appeals have been covered by the national newspapers recently, as the relatives go public in their search for an organ for a loved one, and the public wait for days afterwards to see whether an organ is forthcoming. In one recent case, it was, and in another case, tragically, it was not.
The sadness, anger and frustration that that can occasion is a result of the fact that, at a time of rising demand for organs, so many useful organs are being buried in our churchyards or cremated in crematoriums. It is not a question only of high-profile cases. Thousands of people are dying. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) referred to his personal knowledge of that silent tragedy, which demands urgent action and a proper agenda.
We are indebted to the British Medical Association for its manifesto, which sets out demands of election candidates and political parties. All hon. Members have received copies of the document, which states:
I have spoken of the anger, sadness and frustration that many people feel about organ donation. Their feelings arise from an impression of inactivity. I recently attended two all-party group meetings in which people made their cases about the legal and practical changes required to ensure a greater number of transplants. They stressed the urgent need for action, but when they turned to the parliamentarians at the meetings, we merely sat and looked at them. I suspect that their impression of inactivity is justified.
Hon. Members may recall a Westminster Hall debate on organ transplantation that was held on 14 December 1999. The discussion was a high-profile one for Westminster Hall, as it occurred immediately after the initial aftermath of the launch of the Alder Hey inquiry. It was attended by the Front-Bench spokesmen of the two Opposition parties--my hon. Friend the Member for
Other important issues were raised in that debate, not least among which were novel ideas about raising the profile of donor cards and of registration on the national register of donors. It was suggested that annual electoral registration forms should contain boxes that people can tick to add their names to the register of donors. I am glad that my local authority, New Forest district council, has adopted that suggestion, and I hope that more authorities take the same action. My hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring called for a month of activity in which anyone who spoke to any health professional would be presented with the form needed to obtain an organ donor card. That useful suggestion could have been adopted.
The debate dealt also with the number of intensive care beds, and questions were asked about what could be done about that issue. There was also discussion of revisiting elective ventilation. Presumed consent was once again reviewed, and we spoke about possible improvements in the national register of donors and co-ordination of the business of transplants. That legitimately leads to questions about the purpose of those Adjournment debates. As my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring said in that debate, we hold debates in Westminster Hall because we want to discuss what should be done and we legitimately expect consequent action.
More than a year later, we can legitimately ask what has happened in the meantime. What has arisen from the agenda that was brought to Ministers' attention in Westminster Hall? On 11 February 2000, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) presented a ten-minute Bill. Hon. Members voted by 113 to 23 to allow him to introduce a Bill on presumed consent. In June, the British Medical Association published a useful document entitled "Organ Donation in the 21st Century", to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe has already referred. One of the first items with which it deals is lawful possession of the body. My right hon. and learned Friend has addressed that matter.
What else has been done? Following the Alder Hey report, a summit comprising those involved in transplants was held on 27 February, in a climate of fear that a reduction in transplants would ensue. Mercifully, all the signs suggest that that will not be the consequence of the Alder Hey report. However, we now expect action. The national press reported that the summit issued several new targets for 2005 and 2010. They include doubling the number of those on the register of organ donors from 8 million now to 16 million by 2010; establishing a national service framework for those suffering from renal failure; doubling the number of kidney transplants by 2005, and increasing lung and heart transplants by 10 per cent. by 2005.