MSPs reject presumed consent organ donation Bill

MSPs have blocked plans for an opt-out organ donation system in Scotland, but the Government has said it will launch a consultation on the issue.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt put forward an amendment to the Bill, which stopped it proceeding to the next stage. The amendment called for MSPs not to agree the general principles of the Bill due to “serious concerns”.

MSPs supported the amendment by 59 votes to 56.


The transplantation Bill, introduced by Scottish Labour MSP Anne McTaggart, would have created an ‘opt-out’ system, allowing a deceased patient’s organs to be removed for transplant unless they have registered an objection.

It would also have provided for decisions to be made by a nominated “proxy”.

Maureen Watt’s amendment called for the Government to undertake a consultation on the issue, and she said it intends to introduce a Bill in 2017.


Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee had already recommended that the Bill be rejected, owing to “serious concerns” about its “practical implications”.

The committee’s report highlighted that there is unclear evidence as to whether the introduction of an opt-out system in Spain did actually lead to increased rates of organ donation.

Speaking during Tuesday’s debate, SNP MSP Christine Grahame highlighted that the term ‘presumed consent’ is an “oxymoron”.


She said: “Consent is greatly defined in Scots law. The consenting party must have capacity, which they might not have because of age or mental ability.

“Consent must be informed; opting in and opting out both satisfy that but silence does not. Consent must be freely given”, she added.

Conservative MSP Jackson Carlow questioned whether there would be sufficient safeguards to ensure that systems within the health service honoured a person’s wishes.

Legal ambiguities

Maureen Watt said that although the Government supports the aim of increasing organ donation in Scotland, the Bill is “seriously flawed and could actually harm organ donation”.

“Many of the measures set out in the Bill could make things worse due to legal ambiguities and delays in decision-making processes.

“We have concerns that the proposals around authorised investigating persons (AIPs) and proxies will add significant complexity into the donation pathway, and may lead to potential donors being lost”, she added.

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