Organ Donation 'Soft Opt-Out' System To Be Introduced

28 June 2017, 11:33 | Updated: 28 June 2017, 12:06

An NHS donor card

A new "soft opt-out'' system for organ donation is to be introduced in Scotland, the public health minister has announced.

Aileen Campbell pledged the Scottish Government will bring forward legislation after 82% of those who took part in a consultation backed the change.

She said the move would be "part of the long-term culture change in attitudes to encourage people to support donation''.

The move will be part of a package of measures aimed at increasing the number of organ transplants that take place in Scotland each year.

Scotland currently has the highest proportion of donors of any country in the UK, with 25.5 donors per million people in 2016/17.

A total of 45% of the Scottish population have signed up to the organ donor register, with more than 116,000 people registering in 2016.

Between 2007/08 and 2016/17, there was a 146% increase in the number of people who donated their organs after death, going from 54 to 133.

A soft opt-out system could increase that by changing the system so that people would be assumed to have consented to their organs being used to help others unless that had signed an opt-out.

The wishes of families and next of kin would continue to be respected, so removal of organs would not go ahead without their support.

The Scottish Government received more than 800 responses to its consultation on the move - including a petition signed by 18,500 people in favour of the change.

Ms Campbell said: "As a result, I can confirm that we intend to bring forward legislation to introduce a soft opt-out system.

"This will build on the significant improvements already made as a result of the donation and transplantation plan for Scotland.''

She added: "We should not forget that organ donation is a gift, which can only occur as a result of tragic circumstances and every donor and their family has made a selfless decision which has enabled others to live.

"We need to continue doing what we can in order to help reduce the numbers of people in Scotland waiting for transplants.

"Moving to an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation will be part of the long-term culture change in attitudes to encourage people to support donation.''

She made the announcement after meeting father-of-three Michael Hanlon in Glasgow, three months after he had a lifesaving heart transplant.

Mr Hanlon, 56, spent nine months waiting for the operation and was an inpatient at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, where the national advanced heart failure service is based, in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire.

He said: "The transplant meant everything. It was the only cure for what I had and I knew things were getting worse towards the end.

"As much as I tried to stay positive, it became really difficult, for me and my family. Doctors are really pleased with my progress. I have a long way to go but I feel great.

"There's so many people still waiting in Scotland and I want to use what I went through to make people aware of just how important organ donation is. Organ donors are nothing short of heroes.''