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by James Jopling, BHF Scotland
25 March 2021
Associate feature: BHF Scotland welcomes new organ donation law

Associate feature: BHF Scotland welcomes new organ donation law

Almost five years to the day, Scotland took its first steps towards giving the gift of life to many more people, when a member’s bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament which sought to change the law on organ donation.

That bill was instigated by British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland’s campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the change and tomorrow, the issue comes full circle.

On March 26th, new legislation will see Scotland adopt an opt-out system, meaning everyone will automatically be considered an organ and tissue donor unless they opt-out. 

The law has been passed to save and improve lives. On average across the UK, three people die each day in need of a new organ.

Around 500 people in Scotland are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

Tragically, there is a drastic shortage of donors meaning many people are living with life-limiting illnesses and an uncertain future.

A heart transplant may be the last option for people with end stage heart failure for which there is no cure.

Around 200 heart transplants are carried out in the UK every year, but more people could benefit if the number of donors increased.

We believe the new law will offer patients the much-needed hope that a donor will be found before it’s too late.

The legislation also paves the way for a shift in our social perceptions relating to organ donation.

The key difference for families living in an opt-out system is that in the absence of a recorded decision, they will know their relative could have opted-out but chose not to do so.

We know from Wales, where family consent increased by nearly 50 per cent in the first two years after the change to an opt-out system, that the legislation can support families to make informed decisions.

It’s a situation we want to replicate here in Scotland.

And we must continue to talk to each other about organ donation.

Knowing our loved ones wishes in the event of their death and sharing our own is vital. It’s a conversation we all need to have.

Donation is, of course, a personal decision and it is important to stress that we still have a choice whether or not we want to donate under the new system.

Organ donation opt-out isn’t the end of the journey.

We have taken a huge step forward but for Scotland to deliver a world class organ donation system, there also needs to be additional investment in infrastructure and highly skilled and trained staff.

In doing so, we will offer those waiting today, and in the future, the greatest opportunity of a second chance of life.

James Jopling is the head of BHF Scotland.

This article was sponsored by BHF Scotland.

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