MSPs Debate Organ Donation Opt-Out System Plans

9 February 2016, 06:22

Legislation that would introduce an opt-out system for organ donation in Scotland is being debated at Holyrood.

MSPs will vote on whether to back the general principles of the Transplantation (Authorisation of Removal of Organs etc.) (Scotland) Bill.

The member's Bill was introduced by Labour MSP Anne McTaggart in a bid to increase the number of organs available for transplantation.

It would introduce a "soft opt-out'' system allowing for organs and tissues to be removed from an adult after death if they had not registered or expressed an objection during their lifetime.

Under the plans, families would be consulted in a bid to establish any objection that had not been registered.

The Scottish Government said "there are serious concerns about the practical impact'' of the Bill and want to develop a different ``workable'' soft opt-out system.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Ms McTaggart said: "This move could lead to an extra 70 donors per year, a figure which NHS Blood and Transplant have described as 'transformative'.

"Last year deceased donor rates fell by almost 8% and deceased donor transplants by 13%. This year's data looks just as worrying, with an expected 16% reduction in deceased donor rates and an 8% reduction in transplants.

``Some issues transcend politics - saving people's lives is one of them. I hope today that MSPs will look beyond the Parliament walls and to the people outside of them, and make the right choice.''

The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland also called on MSPs to back a change in the law, pointing out that despite progress to improve organ donation rates in Scotland, 535 people are still waiting for a transplant.

Christian charity Care for Scotland urged MSPs to reject the proposed change to an opt-out system, arguing it would be ``ethically unreliable''.

Last month, a majority of the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee said they were not persuaded the legislation would be an effective way of increasing donor numbers.

Public health minister Maureen Watt said: "While we're very supportive of measures to increase organ availability, in our view the Member's Bill before the Scottish Parliament 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 and proxies will add significant complexity into the donation pathway, and may lead to potential donors being lost.

"However, this Bill has helped to raise the profile of the debate about how we can increase the number of organ donors - bringing these important issues to the fore. What is clear is that both the public and MSPs share a desire to look again at what more can be done to help the hundreds of people that are waiting for a life-saving transplant in Scotland each year.

"That is why we propose starting work now on a detailed consultation to look at the best methods of achieving this in the next parliament.''