SNP 'can lead UK in opt-out organ donation'

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THE Scottish Government was today urged to carry out a public consultation on an opt-out system for organ donations after a survey found support for the change was higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

Lothians Labour MSP George Foulkes, who has been leading a campaign on the issue, said strong Scottish support for reform could lead the way for a change in the law for the whole country.

He has written to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, calling for a full public consultation and urging her to submit a response on behalf of the Scottish Government to the UK-wide task force looking into the idea of "presumed consent".

The suggestion is that medical staff can assume a dead person's organs are available for transplant unless the individual has stated otherwise.

Ms Sturgeon and First Minister Alex Salmond have both indicated their support for such a change. And the SNP conference in Aviemore last weekend gave overwhelming backing to the idea.

Mr Foulkes said: "Every day someone in the UK dies waiting for an organ transplant.

"If Nicola Sturgeon is serious about tackling organ donation she should launch a public consultation on the issue now and use the wealth of public and professional support for a change of law here in Scotland to lead the way across the United Kingdom."

An opinion poll by the BMA showed 74 per cent of Scots were in favour a system of presumed consent, ten per cent higher than the strength of public of opinion in England and Wales.

Mr Foulkes said Scotland could set the pace on organ donations as it had on banning smoking in enclosed public spaces.

Around two dozen MSPs have already signed his motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for an opt-out system.

And despite initially warning against a change, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Harry Burns has now announced a change of heart to support presumed consent.

Mr Foulkes said: "We have the public and professional backing we now need for a change in the law."

In a statement, Ms Sturgeon said changes in the approach to organ donation needed to carry the support of the community at large.

She added: "The Scottish Government believes there is a need for a debate on the issue. The Organ Donation Task Force is currently looking at the area of presumed consent and will make recommendations to UK health ministers.

"The law in relation to organ donation was recently updated with the passing of the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 which gives more weight to the wishes of the deceased and strengthens the system of opting in."

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