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Scotland moves to soft opt out for organ donation

Move welcomed by the British Medical Association

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Scotland is to move to a soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation, under legislation introduced to the Scottish parliament.

The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill, introduced this week, will change organ and tissue donation from the current opt-in system to an opt-out system.

The Bill contains safeguards to ensure people’s wishes regarding donation are followed and that families will be asked about their loved one’s views to ensure donations don’t occur where the person would not have wished it.

The move to an opt-out system received 82% support from respondents in a public consultation in 2017. It will add to measures that have contributed towards improvements in organ donation over the last decade in Scotland, which has seen an 89% increase in the number of deceased organ donors and a 78% increase in organ transplants.

Public Health minister Aileen Campbell said: “We need to do all we can to further reduce the number of people in Scotland waiting for transplants. We have made significant progress over the past decade, and moving to an opt-out system will be part of driving a long-term change in attitudes towards organ and tissue donation.

“Organ and tissue donation is an incredible gift. Importantly, under the proposed system, people will still be able to make a choice about donation as they can now and there are safeguards to ensure their wishes are followed. I would encourage people to continue to make a decision about donation and to tell their family.

“Organ donation can only occur in tragic circumstances, and every donor, supported by their family, makes a selfless decision that can save other people’s lives.”

The British Medical Association Scotland has welcomed the introduction of the Bill.

BMA Scotland has long advocated a shift to a soft opt-out system in which adults – who have been well informed of the options – can choose to opt-out of organ donation during their lifetime.

Commenting, Dr Sue Robertson, a renal physician and member of the BMA’s Scottish Council, said: “Organ transplantation is an area that has seen amazing medical achievements but has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential.

“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.”

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