Scottish Government launches consultation on increasing the number of organ and tissue donors

7 December 2016, 11:59 | Updated: 7 December 2016, 12:01

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on increasing the number of organ and tissue donors.

People are being asked to give their views on measures including the introduction of a soft opt-out system for organ donation.

Under an opt-out system, organs could be removed from a dead person if they had not registered or expressed an objection to this during their lifetime, as opposed to the current system where people have to opt in, for example by joining the Organ Donor Register.

Ministers have said they would consider introducing an opt-out system if it had wide support and could be introduced in a way that did no harm.

While progress has been made in increasing organ donation and transplantation in Scotland, there are still insufficient donors to meet the number of organs needed.

In 2015-16, despite 183 deceased and living organ donors and 415 people receiving transplants, there were still 542 people on the active transplant waiting list.

The consultation follows a previous bid to change the law by Labour MSP Anne McTaggart, which failed when Holyrood voted by 59 to 56 against her Transplantation Bill in February.

The Scottish Government described the Bill as well-intentioned but ``seriously flawed''.

Launching the 14-week consultation, public health minister Aileen Campbell said: ``This year, there have been 85 deceased organ donors in the eight months since April compared to 60 over the same period last year.

"However, there is more we can do for those who are still waiting for a transplant and it's essential that we make sure we're doing all we can.

"That is why we are launching this consultation which looks at ways in which we could increase the number of people being referred to the donation services in Scotland and the number of times when donation is 'authorised' to proceed.

"In particular, we have agreed to consider the introduction of a soft opt-out system of donation if this can be developed in a way which will do no harm to trust in the NHS or to the safety of transplantation.''

A soft opt-out system was introduced in Wales in December 2015 and Ms Campbell said the government would monitor its progress.

The consultation was welcomed by BMA Scotland, which supports the move to a soft opt-out system.

Dr Sue Robertson, a renal physician and member of the BMA's Scottish council, said: ``Organ transplantation is an area that has seen amazing medical achievements but has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential.

"The whole transplant community has worked tremendously hard to increase donation rates but we believe that more can be done.

"We believe that genuine choice over organ donation can be facilitated through a soft opt-out system.

"If properly implemented, with adequate resources and staff, and backed up by a high-profile campaign, an opt-out system could save or transform peoples' lives.''