Plan to make every Scot donate organs by default

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A PROPOSAL to put everyone in Scotland on the organ donor register unless they opt out has received cross-party support from MSPs.

A petition for an opt-out procedure, where consent to donation is presumed unless the deceased indicated otherwise in life, received 18,000 signatures.

Labour has urged the Scottish Government to introduce a bill similar to proposals going through the Welsh Assembly.

If ministers fail to act, Labour will take the initiative through a members bill, said party health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie.

MSPs also faced calls to make more information available about risks associated with organ donation.

The family of a woman who died from skin cancer following a lung transplant told Holyrood’s public petitions committee that they were unaware of the cancer risks associated with a common anti-rejection drug.

While they stressed that they are not against organ donation or the continued use of the drug cyclosporin, they said patients should be made more aware of potential side-effects in order to make an informed choice.

Ms Baillie said: “We know hundreds of people are currently waiting for an organ donation and we know that 90 per cent of people support organ donation. Yet, despite the Scottish Government’s very commendable efforts, only something like half of that number are registered as organ donors.

“So there’s a huge opportunity there that we can capitalise on.

“I believe somewhere in the excess of 70 per cent in Scotland support a shift for a soft opt-out system of organ donation. This operates very much on the basis of presumed consent but families must still be consulted, so there are safeguards in that proposed system.”

Committee convener David Stewart said soft opt-out “is clearly something that any right thinking person would want to support” but said some have concerns about the “ethical, medical and legal issues surrounding it”.

Vice-convener Chic Brodie described it as “a laudable campaign” but said “it could throw up some emotional difficulties, particularly with children”.