MSPs give personal testimonies in organ donor debate

From Democracy Live: Debate on presumed consent for organ donation

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MSPs have given emotional testimonies in a debate on whether there should be presumed consent for organ donation.

Labour member Mark Griffin spoke about the death of his father following a heart transplant.

The SNP's Dennis Robertson talked about his daughter Caroline, whose corneas were donated after her death.

The members' debate come days after the Scottish government launched its organ donor register campaign to get more people to sign up.

More than 40% of people in Scotland have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register, but ministers have said they want that percentage to increase.

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said that progress had been made without having an opt out system.

He added that an organ donation committee had been established in every NHS board in Scotland, seven organ donation specialist nurses had been appointed and high profile publicity campaigns continued to be run.

Organ donor facts

  • 600 to 700 people require a donor organ in Scotland each year
  • 550 of those were given a transplant last year
  • 197 had their sight restored with a cornea transplant
  • 43 people died last year while waiting for an organ donor
  • 90% of Scots back organ donor transplants
  • 41% of Scots are on the NHS Organ Donor Register
  • 15% of donations are lost because the wishes of the dead are not upheld by grieving relatives

The minister also said that the Scottish government felt that an "opt out is not completely off the agenda" and there was a commitment to review this position across the UK in 2013.

The SNP's Kenneth Gibson, who had sponsored the debate, said it was "time for the Scottish government and Scottish Parliament to take decisive action" on introducing presumed consent.

He told the chamber that 43 people in Scotland died last year while waiting for an organ transplant, despite 90% of the population backing organ donation.

The Cunninghame South MSP applauded the Respect My Dying Wish Campaign by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde which is urging people who want to donate their organs after death to tell their loved ones of their wishes.

Mr Gibson said that the death of one person could potentially "give a new lease of life to a dozen people".

Father's death

Mr Robertson told the chamber that his daughter Caroline had "given new life" to allow someone to "live as fully as possible".

He said MSPs should support presumed consent and it should one day be part of the legislative programme.

Mr Griffin explained to his fellow MSPs that his father died at the age of 47 following a heart transplant.

He added that the death was not due to a failure of care, but the stress his father's heart condition on his other vital organs.

Mr Griffin said "of course it's naive to expect everyone to survive" but it was "common sense" that organ donation gave people "the best chance of survival".

The backbench politician called for a "push for presumed consent" - in a similar way to the Welsh government - as it would immediately boost the number of organ donations and save lives.

Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said while he remained sympathetic to the idea he was yet to be persuaded of it.

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