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‘Soft opt-out' donor system proposed

Proposals to change the laws around organ donation in Scotland have been welcomed by the BMA.

Labour MSP Anne McTaggart’s member’s bill aims to replace the opt-in system of organ donation with an opt-out system where people would be assumed to be donors unless they had specifically said they didn’t want to be. 

Under the proposals in the Transplantation (Authorisation of Removal of Organs etc) (Scotland) Bill, families would still have the final say over whether organs were donated – known as a ‘soft opt-out’ system. 

The bill was launched formally at the Scottish Parliament on 1 June at an event attended by transplant recipients and their families.

Ms McTaggart said: ‘There’s still a long way to go in the legislative process but I’m confident that the overwhelming evidence in favour of my proposals will ensure the success of my bill.’ 

Firm support

Dumfries associate specialist in renal medicine and BMA Scottish council member Sue Robertson said: ‘The BMA has long been a supporter of a move to an opt-out system of organ donation, not only because we believe that it would have a positive effect on donation rates, but also because it gives added protection to those who do not wish to donate and makes it more likely that those who are willing to donate will be able to do so.

‘The whole transplant community works tremendously hard to increase the levels of organ donation with significant support from the Scottish Government, but there are still people in Scotland waiting for an organ transplant. 

‘We believe that more can be done and more lives can be saved and this bill represents a positive step towards that goal.’

The Scottish Government welcomed the debate but said there was no consensus among experts about whether the change would make a significant difference.

Public health minister Maureen Watt said that Scotland already led the way in increasing donation and transplantation numbers.