Opt-out organ donation ‘a bad idea for Scotland’

Families may be unable to stop the use of their loved ones’ organs for donations if a new ‘presumed consent’ system is introduced in Scotland.

Legislation has been tabled by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison MSP, to introduce the change, despite evidence that it is unlikely to yield much success.

Currently, people must give their consent before their organs can be removed.

No evidence

Under the planned legislation, backed by a £3 million publicity campaign over the next five years, in most cases organs would be taken unless the individual had registered an objection.

Medical professionals will still enquire about the deceased person’s views, but family members will be unable to prevent organ removal without evidence of the person’s objection.

MSPs will vote on the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill in the near future.

Similar legislation was passed in Wales in 2015 and there has been no evidence that it has had a positive effect on donations.

‘Knee-jerk reaction’

Dr Gordon MacDonald of CARE for Scotland said: “The Scottish Government’s proposed opt-out system for organ donation looks more like a knee-jerk reaction to political and media pressure rather than an effective means to address the shortage of organs available for donation.

“The danger is that it will provide the illusion of taking action, without making any real difference.

“Whilst much needed resources for specialist organ donation nurses are being diverted into publicity campaigns to try to raise public awareness about the new system, organ donation rates are likely to remain stubbornly low.”

Opt-in system

In England, the Government also plans to introduce ‘presumed consent’ organ donation.

Theresa May wants to introduce the scheme and has already concluded a consultation on the idea.

This is despite recent figures revealing that more people than ever before donated organs in the UK last year under the current system.

NHS statistics showed over 1,500 people voluntarily gave their organs in 2017-18, an 11 per cent increase on the previous year.

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