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by Tom Freeman
12 June 2019
Soft opt-out organ donation law passed by MSPs

Organ transplant - PA

Soft opt-out organ donation law passed by MSPs

An 'opt-out' system of organ donations has been overwhelmingly backed by the Scottish Parliament.

The new system will mean people will have to express a preference that they do not want their organs used to help others after their death, and will replace the current system where people must opt into the scheme via a donor card or other form of registration.

It follows a similar law change in Wales.

The Scottish Parliament opposed a similar proposal last term in the form of a member's bill from Labour MSP Anne McTaggart, but this time only a handful of MSPs voted against.

The Scottish Government said a public awareness campaign will be launched later this year to provide more information about what the changes mean and what choices people will have.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “The new opt-out system will add to the package of measures already in place which have led to significant increases in donation and transplantation over the last decade.

“However, in Scotland there are an average of more than 500 people waiting for an organ transplant at any one time so it’s important that we do all we can to improve the lives of those on the waiting list.

“I would encourage people to continue to make a decision about donation and discuss it with their family.”

Labour's Mark Griffin, who had proposed a member's bill on the issue, said the change would save lives. Griffin's father Francis died in 2007 days after a heart operation following a 10-year wait for an organ transplant.

“Too many families like mine have lost a loved one waiting for an organ donor," he said.

“I’m delighted for all of those families waiting now that the system has now been changed, after many blocked attempts from doing so.

“This Bill will save lives throughout the country and ensure we have an organ donor system which is fit for purpose.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame voted against the bill after disagreeing with the wording, calling "presumed consent" an "oxymoron", while two conservatives, Gordon Lindhurst and Oliver Mundell, also voted against.

David McColgan, of the British Heart Foundation Scotland, said: "We already have the highest population registered to be donors [in the UK] but we also have the highest family refusal rate so this legislation will change that conversation, change the understanding of the situation.

"For example, in Wales over two years they have seen a 50 per cent increase in family consent so that is really important and that is what we hope the legislation will achieve here.

"But the legislation cannot be seen as a silver bullet and a solution on its own, so two of the big challenges which exist are training enough staff and having the suitable infrastructure for transplants."

Christian campaign group CARE for Scotland warned the new system could lead to potential donors removing themselves from the register "if they find the idea of the state presuming their content offensive".



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