Organ donation

The blunder over organ donors (your report, 12 April), emphasises the risk that a family may give permission to donate certain body parts for transplantation which does not reflect the specific preferences of the deceased.

However, in Scotland, only a change in the law would be able to address this risk.

Indeed, the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 does not enable potential donors to be certain that only the body parts which they have chosen beforehand will be donated after their death.

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This is because, even though an individual may have registered their wish to only donate specific organs before death on the NHS Organ Donor Registry, it is still legally possible for their unknown or unreliable relatives (and who may also just be a friend of long-standing), in Scotland, to greatly add to this number of body parts being donated after death.

This is because they may not be aware of any opposition from the deceased to donate certain organs. Indeed, in contrast to all other systems of consent in Europe, in which nearest relatives usually make the final decision, the Scottish Act does not enable persons, who wish to do so, to register their opposition to the removal of certain specific body parts after death.

The UK does not have a national register opposing general or specific organ donation.

The absence of fail-safe mechanisms to allow people to record their wishes, be they positive or negative, in the Scottish Act is a cause of serious concern.


Scottish Council on Human Bioethics

Morningside Road