Soft opt-out organ donation scheme to be introduced in Scotland

Written by Tom Freeman on 28 June 2017 in News

SNP come round to the idea of an opt-out organ donation register after consultation shows overwhelming support

The Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to introduce a soft opt out system of organ and tissue donation, Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell has announced.

It means people will have to opt-out of the register if they do not want their organs used for transplants after their death.

The SNP voted down a similar bill from Labour MSP Anne McTaggart at its first stage in the last parliament, but has since held a consultation which showed 82 per cent support for the move.


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There was also a petition with 18,500 signatures supporting the idea, which was introduced in Wales in 2015.

In the same year the Scottish Government said it had “very real concerns” about the impact of the scheme, and questioned whether it would increase the amount of organs available for transplants.

However today Campbell said: “We need to continue doing what we can in order to help reduce the numbers of people in Scotland waiting for transplants.  Moving to an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation will be part of the long term culture change in attitudes to encourage people to support donation.

“We know that in order for opt out to be able to contribute to an increase in donation rates it has to work as part of a package of measures – that is why I would still encourage people to join the organ donor register and to let their loved ones know that is what they want.”

Labour MSP Mark Griffin had pledged to take on McTaggart’s work in this parliament. He welcomed what he called a “change of heart” by the SNP.

“The fact that this is finally happening is testament to the hard work of relatives, campaigners and transplant recipients,” he said.

“Particular tribute has to be paid to Anne McTaggart, former Labour MSP for Glasgow, who has long championed this cause and whose Member’s Bill I took on after the most recent Holyrood election.”

The announcement was also welcomed by the British Medical Association.

Chair Dr Peter Bennie said: “The whole transplant community has worked tremendously hard to increase donation rates but we believe that more can be done.  As doctors it’s difficult to see our patients suffering and dying when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant. 

“We believe that genuine choice over organ donation can be facilitated through a soft opt-out system.  If properly implemented, with adequate resources and staff, and backed up by a high profile campaign, an opt-out system could save or transform peoples’ lives. 

“We look forward to contributing to this important legislation.”

Scotland already has the highest rate of donors per million of population of any UK country – currently 25.5.

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