Scotland politics

MSPs to consider organ donor change

Doctors Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Scottish ministers have no plans to change the current system

Legislation to bring in an opt-out system for organ donation in Scotland is set to be introduced to parliament.

Plans to reverse the current practice, which have been brought forward in a backbench bill, have won cross-party support.

Labour MSP Anne McTaggart said her proposal had been backed by key health professionals.

However, the Scottish government has said it is not currently convinced of a need to change the system.

Ms McTaggart's Organ and Tissue Donation Bill has been backed by more than 18 MSPs and has won support from members of all of the Holyrood parties, meaning she can introduce it to parliament unless the government indicates it plans to bring in equivalent legislation by 5 February.

The bill would mean that, unless an adult had expressed an objection and opted-out of the organ donation register, then their organ and tissue could be removed posthumously.

'Action needed'

Ms McTaggart said: "With three people dying every day across the UK, we simply cannot afford to wait any longer on this issue.

"As the British Heart Foundation pointed out, it could take another 13 years to address organ donor shortages without a change to a soft opt-out system.

"Action needs to be taken now."

The UK has one of the lowest organ donation rates in Europe and, while only 5% of the population oppose organ donation in principle, less than 40% of people are registered as organ donors, according to Scottish government research.

Calls for change have been backed by doctors body the BMA, as well as the British Heart Foundation in Scotland.

Intensive care

Wales will become the first part of the UK to introduce presumed consent for organ donation, with the change coming into force in December 2015.

However, the Scottish government has said introducing an opt-out system only meant increasing the number of people on the donor register, and would not necessarily lead to a rise in organs for transplant.

Ministers said 62% of donors in Scotland over the last five years were not on the register and added that organs needed to come from donors who die in intensive care units, which only account for about 1% of deaths.

Organ donation in Scotland has almost doubled over a six-year period, according to recent government figures.

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