Organ donation: Scotland should ‘consider opt-out’

Picture: Getty

Picture: Getty

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Scotland should watch what happens with a new opt-out system for organ donation in Wales before deciding whether to adopt the same approach, a report says.

The Scottish Transplant Group said ministers should evaluate the experience in Wales as part of a new plan to try to increase the number of donors and transplant operations.

Last week Welsh assembly members voted to change the law to become the first UK country where, by 2015, people will be presumed to have consented for their organs to be donated unless they opt out.

But the British Medical Association, which backs presumed consent, said Scotland needed to act now on the issue rather than waiting to see what happened in Wales.

Dr Brian Keighley, chair of BMA Scotland, said: “While we welcome efforts to increase the number of organs available for transplant in this strategy, we are disappointed that the Scottish Government has not actively considered moving towards an ‘opt out’ system for organ donation.

“We can’t wait until 2015 to begin the debate about opt out.

“We need to start the public debate about this now so that, when the time comes we are ready to move forward.”

The Donation and Transplantation Plan for Scotland includes 21 recommendations to try to increase donations, including having more high profile campaigns to encourage donors and involving specialist nurses in discussions with families about donating a loved-one’s organs.

It also backs a public consultation on measures to increase donation such as higher priority for those who have signed the donor register if they need an organ and help with funeral costs for donor families.

The debate should also consider a “hard-line approach” to tackle the problem of families refusing to allow a relative’s organs to be donated even if they were in the register, where donation would proceed even without their support.

A national mememorial to honour donors is also suggested in the report.

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “Organ transplants transform lives. That is why we must do more to ensure that everyone who wished to become donors are able to do so.

“In Scotland we’ve already seen huge progress in terms of getting more people on the NHS Organ Donor Register and in significantly increasing the number of donors. While this shows we are on the right track, we know that even more can be done to address the shortage of donated organs.

“This Scottish plan sets out the actions we and the NHS will take to give more people the chance of receiving a life-saving or life-enhancing transplant.”

The new plan is aimed at complementing the new UK-wide strategy Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020 which has also just been published.

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