7. Letter from Tom Watson MP to the Chairman
Thank you very much for your letter regarding the
Organ Donation (Presumed Consent and Safeguards) Bill.
I was interested to read the questions that the Committee
has raised about the Bill. I hope that this letter, which I have
written after consultation with the British Medical Association,
answers your questions.
In question (a) you asked whether the Bill should
require the independence of the two medical practitioners who
have to certify death. Current practice is that the two registered
medical practitioners certifying that death has occurred should
be independent from members of the transplant team. This practice
is specified in a code of practice, but I see no problem in this
provision being included in primary legislation.
It may be appropriate for the doctors undertaking
brain stem death to record their conclusions on a specified form.
However, I would not want to see an onerous procedure in place
that might deter people from undertaking such tests, thus reducing
the number of donors.
Question (b) asked whether Parliament should retain
ultimate responsibility for approving the criteria to govern brain
stem tests. At present, the criteria governing brain stem tests
are contained in a code of practice produced by the Conference
of Medical Royal Colleges. This code is agreed widely and is followed
universally. I fell that it is not appropriate to include the
code in primary legislation. The code is a set of clinical tests,
devised by clinicians with the relevant expertise and knowledge.
I appreciate that, however eminent a body the Conference
of Medical Royal Colleges is, it is not accountable to Parliament.
It may therefore be appropriate to propose that the primary legislation
contains reference to a code of practice approved by the Secretary
If you require clarification of any of these points,
or have any further questions about the Bill, please do not hesitate
to contact me. In the meantime, may I thank you for taking the
time to scrutinise my Bill.
26 September 2002