‘Opt-out’ organ donation Bill passed in Scotland

Scottish politicians yesterday backed legislation to change the law on organ donation, meaning citizens will be presumed to consent to the procedure.

In total, 116 MSPs voted for the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill with three opposing and two abstaining.

Widespread concerns have been raised about the change, and MSPs did amend the Bill to make clear people’s freedom to opt-out.


Speaking in the debate, SNP MSP Christine Grahame said while she supported the concept of organ donation, she took issue with the wording of the legislation.

“‘Presumed consent’ is a prime example of an oxymoron: consent cannot be presumed, but must be indicated in some form or other”, she said.

Grahame added that it was wrong for the state to assume the consent of a “silent deceased person”. “I want people to have access to organs, but I cannot support the Bill”.


In the wake of MSPs passing the legislation, the Scottish Government urged people to “make a decision about donation and discuss it with their family”.

It pledged a public awareness campaign in the coming months, as well as training for health professionals.

In England, where an opt-out system is coming into effect next year, a former transplant chief has warned the opt-out change “may take away people’s faith and trust in organ donation”.


Under the current system, record numbers of people in Scotland have voluntarily said they would like to donate their organs.

In December last year, NHS Blood and Transplant said that between April and October 2018, there were over 285,000 new registrations, making the total figure almost 2.8 million.

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