MSPs to debate opt-out organ donation bill

Written by Jenni Davidson on 26 February 2019 in News

Under the proposed new system, if a person does not opt out of donation, they could be considered to have agreed that their organs and tissue can be used for transplants

Scottish Parliament debating chamber - Image credit: Scottish Parliament via Flickr

A bill that aims to increase organ donation in Scotland by will be debated by MSPs today.

Currently people have to opt-in by registering as an organ donor for their organs to be used for transplants, but under the proposed new system, if a person does not opt out of donation, they could be considered to have agreed that their organs and tissue can be used for transplants after their death.

The bill includes safeguards to ensure that donation will not go ahead where it would be clearly against the person’s wishes, as well as protections for adults without capacity, adults who have been living in Scotland for less than a year and children under 16, who will only be able to donate if they, or someone on their behalf, explicitly authorises it.

Less than one per cent of people die in circumstances that enable organ donation to proceed, as a potential donor usually has to be in an intensive care unit and there may be medical reasons that mean organs are unsuitable for transplantation.

Since 2008 there has been an 89 per cent increase in the number of people who donated organs after their death, a 78 per cent increase in the number of transplant operations from deceased donors and a 22 per cent decrease in the number of people on the active transplant waiting list.

There are plans for an awareness-raising campaign at least 12 months before the introduction of the new system, and regularly afterwards to remind people.

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Organ and tissue donation can be a life-changing gift and has the power to both save and improve lives.

“In Scotland we have seen tremendous progress over the last decade, with the number of donors, organ and tissue transplants all increasing.

“There has also been a significant increase in the number of people registering their donation decision, with 51 per cent of the Scottish population on the NHS Organ Donor Register – the highest rate of all UK countries.  

“However, there are still too many people waiting for transplants, with an average of more than 500 people waiting for an organ transplant at any one point in Scotland.

“That’s why we are doing all we can to increase organ and tissue donation, and while no single measure can achieve this, evidence shows that opt-out systems can make a difference as part of a package of measures.

“Families will continue to have an important role in the donation process and will be able to provide information about their loved ones’ views.

“I would encourage people to make a decision about donation and tell their family.”

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