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Scottish Government rejects ‘soft opt out’ organ donation plan

Scottish Government rejects ‘soft opt out’ organ donation plan

The Scottish Government has decided not to support Labour MSP Anne McTaggart’s plans to introduce a "soft opt-out" system for organ donation.

The system would see people actively opt out of the NHS Organ Donation Register if they did not want their organs removed after death.

In a heated exchange at a meeting of the Health and Sport Committee, Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said the Government wanted to wait to see how the idea played out in Wales, where a soft opt-out was introduced on the first of December.


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After hearing evidence, the Government has "very real concerns" about the bill's impact, she said. "We don't believe the bill could be satisfactorily amended."

The introduction of a proxy or Authorised Investigating Person (AIP) would complicate the system, she said.

Professor John Forsythe, Lead Clinician for Organ Donation and Transplantation in Scotland said he was concerned conflicts would arise with families if they perceived it as the state “taking their loved-ones’ organs”.

“This could lead people to be more risk averse,” he said.

Better education and “a whole hospital approach” would be a better way to improve donation rates, he suggested.

Committee convener Duncan McNeil asked if the minister would come back in a year or two and apologise if the Welsh model proved successful. “People waiting for a transplant are not willing to wait to see what happens in Wales,” he said.

“No, because what we are saying is we don't believe this bill is actually going to achieve what we all want to achieve which is an increase in transplantation,” replied Watt.

McTaggart defended the evidence her team had pulled together to support the bill. She said she was “saddened and disgusted” at “mistruths peddled” in the Scottish Government's response, calling for amendments to the bill.

“I'm dumbstruck as to why the Scottish Government think things will improve by sitting on our laurels.”

The bill has been supported by a cross-party group of MSPs, the British Heart Foundation, the British Medical Association Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament.

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