Holyrood backs "opt-out" organ donation change for Scots

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick says the change will "make a difference"
Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick says the change will "make a difference"
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An “opt-out” system for organ donation will be introduced in Scotland after the move was backed by  MSPs at Holyrood.

The move was welcomed by medical leaders in Scotland, but prompted warnings over state intrusion into the rights of the deceased.

Read more: ‘Scotland’s new organ donation plans will help me find a heart’
The change was backed by 116 votes to 3 last night and means it will be assumed people were in favour of donating their organs after deaths unless they have stated otherwise.

This is a departure from the current set-up which sees Scots “opt in” by registering to donate their organs for transplants after they die.

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland has been leading the calls for change. Dr Sue Robertson, a kidney specialist at Dumfries Renal Unit, said the change will save lives.

“At the end of March 2019 there were 581 people in Scotland waiting for life-saving transplants – with the introduction of this new law I am hopeful that more people than ever before will receive the organs they so desperately need,” she said.

“I also believe that over time organ donation will become the norm, with more people having discussions with their families about their wishes and a more positive attitude towards donation within society.”

Read more: Scottish Parliament to debate presumed consent for organ donation
But the new regime came under fire from senior Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame who insisted that consent “cannot be presumed” on behalf of a deceased person.

She said this is why the terms “organ donation” and “presumed consent” do not appear in the legislation, with the words “transplantation” and “deemed authorisation” used instead.

“Neither authorisation nor consent can be presumed or deemed in the vital absence of any indication either way,” she said.

“In my view it is wrong for the state to do so on behalf of a silent deceased. I fully support in the intent of the bill, but with regret I cannot support this legislation as it is worded.”

A high profile awareness-raising campaign is planned in the year before the introduction of the new system.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Organ and tissue donation can be a life-changing gift.

“Evidence shows that opt-out systems can make a difference as part of a wider package of measures and this Bill provides further opportunities to both save and improve lives.”