Scottish Govt consulting on presumed consent organ donation

The Scottish Government is proposing a change to the law on organ donation.

Ministers have launched a consultation which includes plans for a ‘soft opt-out’ system.

Under this system, organs would be removed from a dead person unless they have registered an objection.

‘Serious concerns’

In February a Bill proposing an opt-out system was defeated at Holyrood, after health minister Maureen Watt put forward an amendment to stop it proceeding to the next stage.

The amendment called for a consultation and Watt said the Government would put forward a Bill in 2017.

There had been “serious concerns” about the “practical implications” of the Bill, and MSPs cited evidence that similar systems brought in abroad did not necessarily increase organ donation.

‘No right’

Dr Gordon Macdonald from CARE for Scotland, said: “The State does not have a right to anyone’s organs”, adding that “even a so called soft opt-out system ruins the nature of organ donation as an altruistic gift”.

And Dr Calum MacKellar, of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, warned that introducing such a system could lead to “serious mistakes”.

The opt-out system is otherwise known as ‘presumed consent’, a term which drew criticism from one SNP MSP.


During a debate in February, Christine Grahame described it as an “oxymoron”:

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

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

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